Doctors Kristin Higgins and Taofeek Owonikoko held a live web chat on the topic of lung cancer this month. From that chat, there were several unanswered questions that we wanted to circle back with the answers for. You’ll find them below in a Q&A format. If you’re interested in checking out the rest of the conversation from the chat, check out the lung cancer chat transcript.
Rhonda asked: Is there any lung cancer treatment program for people without health insurance?
Dr. Owonikoko: Depending on where this person resides, the state may have a program for indigent cancer patients. Also, the American Cancer Society has some patient support programs for indigent patients to support cancer care. Here is the webpage to the support options on the ACS website.
Marjorie asked: My sister has been treated this year for non-small cell lung cancer in the RUL, that was inoperable. she underwent 6 months of radiation and chemotherapy, and has been told that she is now in remission. what are the odds that she will remain in remission for 5 years or more?
Dr. Owonikoko: This is not a medical advice; best to discuss with the treating oncologist. However, depending on the exact stage of the cancer, 20-30% of patients treated with chemoradiation will survive past 5 years.
Marjorie asked: Also, can you comment on outcomes from radiation induced pneumonitis?
Dr. Higgins: Radiation pneumonitis arises in about 20-25% of patients that are treated with radiation and chemotherapy. It typically resolves with a course of steroids but sometimes requires hospitilization for more intensive monitoring and supplemental oxygen.
Hank asked: There seems to be some controversy about the use of radiation therapy for lung cancer depending on the stege. What are the pro’s and con’s?
Dr. Owonikoko: There is not much controversy about the benefit of radiation for patient with locally advanced lung cancer. The discussion is more about the best way to give the radiation and how much. Radiation is generally not needed for patients with stage I lung cancer of the non small cell subtype but may be useful for symptom palliation in patients with stage IV non small lung cancer.
Dr. Higgins can provide additional insight on the radiation questions.
Dr. Higgins: A form of local therapy is needed to cure lung cancer that has not yet spread to distant sites, whether it be radiation or surgery. Surgery is the best option for early stage lung cancer. New techniques of radiation, particularly SBRT, have been used in patients with early stage lung cancer that are not medically fit for surgery. Outcomes have been very good with SBRT, however surgery and SBRT have not been directly compared and surgery remains the standard of care. There are trials underway that are directly comparing SBRT vs. surgery.
Again I want to stress that surgery remains the standard of care for early stage lung cancer, but pros to SBRT include minimal recovery time and a less invasive procedure.
Do you have other questions for us related to lung cancer? Leave them in the comments below & we’ll be sure to post responses here.