Unlike many cancers, lung cancer typically doesn’t exhibit signs and symptoms until the disease has advanced significantly. If one or more of these symptoms occur, see your doctor immediately. As mentioned before, these symptoms do not appear in the earliest stages of lung cancer, so swift action should be taken. These symptoms may include:
- Change in “smoker’s cough”
- Coughing up blood
- A persistent, new cough
- Unintentional weight loss
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
To diagnose lung cancer, a physician may use an x-ray or CT scan of the patient to look for a mass. The presence of lung cancer can also be revealed when the mucus from a patient’s productive cough is examined under a microscope. Pulmonologists, physicians focusing on the health of the respiratory system, may examine the lungs using specialized procedures. Biopsies, a doctor removing a sample of the abnormal cells to test for the presence of cancer, are often completed to confirm a diagnosis.
Non-invasive and painless, proton therapy for lung cancer allows physicians to provide doses of radiation to specific areas, controlling the depth of the protons emitted and reducing the impact on the surrounding tissue. Pencil beam scanning capabilities provide precise doses of radiation to targeted areas. As a result, patients experience fewer side effects.
With traditional photon radiation, side effects such as nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue and significant weight loss are common. However, with proton therapy, these side effects are nearly eliminated. Many patients have an improved recovery experience.
Doctors and scientists have been studying the results of proton therapy in the treatment of Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). One study in particular showed that patients with stage III NSCLC who were treated with proton therapy experienced lower rates of pneumonitis and esophagitis (inflammations of the lungs and esophagus) compared to patients treated with conventional radiation therapy such as intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
With proton therapy, much of the healthy tissue and critical organs surrounding the cancer is spared from receiving additional radiation. This is a major concern when it comes to radiation treatment for lung cancer because the cancer may be close to your heart, healthy lung, and other critical organs. The unique properties of protons allow proton radiation to better conform to your cancer, reducing excess radiation to the healthy tissues and organs around it. In the chart below, the grey/white areas indicate no radiation exposure, while the colored areas indicate radiation exposure.