Lung Cancer Treatment
Minimally invasive options to destroy cancer cells and help you breathe easier.
Your lung cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these. Sometimes, you may need additional treatment to fight lung cancer.
Our Interventional Pulmonology Program uses a number of minimally invasive techniques to destroy cancer cells, stop bleeding, or help you breathe better. These procedures often use bronchoscopy to allow the doctor to see into your airways. This technique uses a long, hollow tube called a bronchoscope with a camera attached at the end.
Our interventional pulmonology treatments fall into two categories:
- Ablation for lung tumors
- Therapeutic techniques for lung cancer
What ablation procedures are used for lung tumors?
Ablation is a procedure that cuts, burns, freezes, clots, or destroys tumors. Our interventional pulmonologists use minimally invasive ablation, which means they don’t use open surgery.
We destroy lung tumors using one or more of the following procedures:
Argon plasma coagulation (APC)
Argon plasma coagulation uses argon gas to kill cancer cells and control bleeding tumors. The doctor uses bronchoscopy to direct the gas through a probe. As the gas leaves the probe, an electrical charge turns the gas into a substance called plasma. The plasma wraps around the tumor, stopping the bleeding.
Brachytherapy targets radiation into or near a tumor from within the body. This is different from regular radiation therapy, which is focused on a tumor from outside the body. The high-dose radiation is injected using bronchoscopy. Patients may require two to three treatments, spaced about a week apart.
We don’t use brachytherapy as our first treatment option. We use it for tumors that may remain after surgery or other treatments.
Cryotherapy uses extreme cold to destroy lung tumors that we can’t remove with surgery. We use cryotherapy for some patients on ventilators who have very high oxygen requirements. In these cases, thermal techniques -- those that use heat instead of cold -- are not an option.
Electrocautery uses heat to destroy tumors or stop bleeding. The procedure uses an electric current to burn or destroy a lung tumor.
Fibrin glue application
Lung tumors sometimes leave small holes in the airways. We use fibrin glue to patch these holes. The patches stay in place for 30 days until the hole heals.
Laser therapy directs lasers at tumors to vaporize them or to stop bleeding. The types of laser therapy we use include:
- Nd-YAG laser, the most common surgical laser
- KTP laser
- Holmium and CO2 lasers
A microdebrider is a tiny mechanical cutting device that we place near a small lesion in the airway using a longhollow tube called a catheter. The microdebrider’s rotating blade cuts away at the tumor while we suck up the tissue fragments through the catheter.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
Photodynamic therapy is performed in two phases to kill cancer cells with a light-activated drug. First, the doctor will inject you with a drug that causes the cells to become more sensitive to light. This takes about two days. Next, the doctor will guide a laser to the site using bronchoscopy. The light from the laser kills the sensitized cells. We often use PDT along with other treatments,unless the tumor is well contained.
What therapeutic techniques are available for lung cancer?
If you have lung cancer or mesothelioma, we sometimes recommend treatments that will not cure your cancer. Instead, these treatments will relieve symptoms and allow you to breathe more easily. These procedures can include:
Stents are mesh tubes made of metal and/or silicone that we can insert into the airway. The stents act like scaffolding, holding open the passageway so you can breathe easier.
Balloon dilatation uses tiny balloons to open up airways. Once inflated in the passageways of the lungs, these balloons open up the airways into much larger spaces. We can use this technique to help you breathe better, to control severe bleeding in your airways, or to help your doctor remove something blocking an airway.