Is Lung Cancer Curable?

Lung cancer is a group of diseases in which you develop abnormal growths in the lungs. It is among the leading cause of cancer deaths in many parts of the world, like the U.S. In fact, it is now considered more lethal than breast cancer in women. In the U.S., the number of deaths caused by lung cancer is now higher than the number of deaths from rectal, prostate, colon, and breast cancer combined. This often makes people ask, "Can lung cancer be cured?" If yes, why is the survival rate is on the lower side? Let's find out more about it.

Is Lung Cancer Curable?

It is hard to answer because it is curable in most cases, but it largely depends on your definition of "cure". In any case, the survival rate is directly related to how early you have been diagnosed with lung cancer. There certain are some treatment options available, which even have helped people survive many years even when they had advanced stage lung cancer.

However, there is unfortunately no real "cure", which means that it can recur even decades after you have been diagnosed with it. Lung cancer is quite like colon cancer and breast cancer in the sense that it causes solid tumors to develop in your body. Long-term remission is definitely a possibility with these types of cancer, so they just cannot be cured completely. Health care providers may use the word "cure" in case of stage 1A lung cancer when the tumor is usually very small and there is no vascular invasion.

So What About the Five-Year Survival Rate?

Now you have understood the answer to your question, "Is lung cancer curable?" you may also want to know about its survival rate. The following chart will help you understand the 5-year survival rate of the two types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

Chart 1: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Survival Rate

Non-small cell lung cancer has four main stages and the survival rate varies. The table below provides information about five-year survival rate after collecting and analyzing data from 81,000 patients.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Five-Year Survival Rate

Stage 1

Stage 1A

58% to 73%

Stage 1B

43% to 58%

Stage 2

Stage 2A

36% to 46%

Stage 2B

25% to 36%

Stage 3

Stage 3A

19% to 24%

Stage 3B

7% to 9%

Stage 4

2% to 13%

Chart 2: Small Cell Lung Cancer Survival Rate

Small cell lung cancer usually has two categories – extensive disease and limited disease. Survival rate for people with extensive disease is 5%, whereas survival rate is 25% for people with limited disease. Here comes more:

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Five-Year Survival Rate

Stage 1

Stage 1A

Up to 40%

Stage 1B

Up to 20%

Stage 2

Stage 2A

Up to 40%

Stage 2B

Up to 20%

Stage 3

Stage 3A

Up to 15%

Stage3B

Up to 10%

Stage 4

Up to 1%

How to Extend Your Life with Lung Cancer

Is lung cancer curable? It may or may not be curable depending on your unique circumstances, but you can definitely extend your life by opting for specific treatment options.

1. Surgery

You will have to undergo surgery to best improve your survival rate. You may even be declared "cured" if you undergo surgery at an early stage with cancer not spread to blood vessels or lymph nodes. During the procedure, your doctor will remove the tumor as well as a margin of healthy tissue to prevent recurrence. Doctors may go for:

  • Wedge resection that involves removing a section of lung along with tumor.
  • Segmental resection that removes a larger section of lung.
  • Lobectomy that removes an entire lobe.
  • Pneumonectomy that removes one of your entire lungs.

Sometimes, it is important to remove lymph nodes during surgery to check them for any signs of cancer. Be sure to talk to your doctor before undergoing surgery because there are risks and complications associated with it.

2. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is definitely an option but it is rarely used with curative intent for people suffering from lung cancer. Your doctor gives you certain drugs intravenously to exterminate cancer cells – they may also ask you to take them orally. The treatment may continue for weeks or months, with short breaks in between. You usually need to undergo chemotherapy after surgery to eliminate remaining cancer cells.

3. Radiation Therapy

The procedure involves using high-powered energy beams from different sources such as protons and X-rays to exterminate cancer cells. Your doctor may opt for external beam radiation to kill cancer cells from outside the body or they opt for brachytherapy to kill cancer cells from inside your body. It is usually more effective after surgery and is usually the treatment option for tumors that cannot be removed through surgery.

4. Targeted Drug Therapy

It is relatively newer treatment option for cancer and involves using drugs that target abnormalities in cancer cells. You have to use chemotherapy drugs while being on a targeted drug therapy. The most common targeted therapy options include bevacizumab, afatinib, crizotinib, ceritinib, ramucirumab, and nivolumab. Targeted drug therapies usually work only when your cancer cells have specific genetic mutations.

5. Clinical Trials

Healthcare providers need your support to try some treatment options that may be new but do not guarantee a cure. In other words, clinical trials involve studying the effects of innovative lung cancer treatments. They are suitable for people who have limited treatment options or their cancer has not responded to existing treatment options. So is lung cancer curable? They may be cured by new treatment options, so never give up hope.

6. Palliative Care

Palliative care or supportive care is for people who experience side effects of cancer treatment. You will be working directly with a doctor who will consider your unique circumstances and identify ways to minimize your symptoms. Working with a palliative care team during and after treatment will make it somewhat easier to deal with signs and symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatment. Studies show that people who receive palliative care after their diagnosis have better chances of surviving through the treatment. 

Know the lung structure, symptoms of lung cancer and a detailed description of non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer: 

 
 
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