Research has shown that nearly half of the patients of lung cancer have been diagnosed with “stage 4 lung cancer”. It is because of the fact that people start to experience some pain and symptoms at this stage and want to see a doctor. Because it is a late stage of cancer; symptoms start to be seen more than other stages do and it is highly possible that it has already metastasized.
It is a fact that the medical world couldn’t find a treatment technique which was able to act on lung cancer cells effectively decades ago. This situation used to turn people into pessimistic attitudes about their lifespan and survival chance because lung cancer is generally diagnosed with a late stage such as stage 4A and 4B. However, the recent decade has offered us many opportunities and there are newly developed drugs that can be combined with other drugs and make some variations possible for the treatment process of patients.
There are new stage 4 lung cancer treatment techniques such as immunotherapies and targeted therapies besides the traditional techniques. Doctors prescribe a drug or practice one of these treatment methods counting on some variables like the size and extent of the tumor or its’ stage and type. Patients immune system and overall health also play an important role in making a decision for the treatment.
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Treatment for Stage 4 Lung Cancer
This treatment method is especially effective for DNA mutations which are briefly called KRAS, ROS1, BRAF, EFGR, ALK. These mutations are what reasons in cancer. Statistics have shown that nearly %20 of all patients of lung cancer have one of these mutations. When one of these mutations have been found, some drugs such as Gefitinib, Crizotinib may be prescribed because they can act on cancerous cells seen in EGFR, ALK, ROS1. It is also known that some DNA mutations offer much longer lifespan for the patients because some drugs can easily act on them and reduce the spread speed and relatively prevent it from performing its functions, which enhances the expected lifetime of stage 4 lung cancer patients.
This is one of the most effective treatments that can make cancerous cells undefended and turn them to visible for immune system cells so that immune system can act on these cancer cells and destruct their shield. Doctors apply the test of “PD-L1” to understand whether the tumor is eligible for immunotherapy; it is a fact that nearly %40 of tumors are eligible for this treatment and can give positive results. Drugs such as Nivolumab, Pembrolizumab are used in these therapies. What makes immunotherapies more advantageous is that it doesn’t have many side effects as chemotherapy has and show better results compared to other treatment methods. It can extend the lifespan by three months more than chemotherapy can do; however, it is a figure on average.
Immunotherapy or targeted therapy sometimes cannot do well on cancer cells because of the mutation types. At this point, doctors prescribe chemotherapy for these patients who haven’t responded to previous methods. Statistics show that nearly a quarter of patients respond to chemotherapy partially and chemotherapy can rather be effective on cancer cells. While practicing this method, patients have some pauses to give healthy cells to recover and perform as it was before since chemotherapy causes some harm to healthy regular cells.
As it is explained in the immunotherapy treatment method, some drugs can act on cancer cells and reduce their capabilities. There are one more treatment techniques in which drugs are combined and tested; some of them are really turning out to be much more effective for stage 4 lung cancer. There are many studies on cancer drugs and there is always a new one; that’s why researchers try to combine them and make it useful for combined therapies. If patients cannot bear these combinations; combined drugs are not prescribed and these drugs are taken separately. (This decision is made regarding the traits and features of the tumor and the patient) Today survival rates and life expectancy have expanded because of newly developed drugs and combinations. Patients should know about these treatment methods, drugs, and other techniques. They need to consult their doctor about the recent treatments, studies, and clinical trials.
Stage 4 lung cancer is known to be aggressive. In most cases, it has already invaded neighboring structures and organs, which makes the treatment process rather hard. Stage 4 lung cancer is really difficult to recover and chemotherapy is seen as the primary treatment method. It is prescribed more than other methods because metastases were seen in the other organs.
The symptoms of stage 4 lung cancer are actually not specific and seen in other types and stages of lung cancer.
These are; fatigue, loss of weight, loss of appetite, pain (in the chest or in bones), coughing up (with blood).
These figures are not hopeful since the disease is very aggressive and invade some other structures and organs in the body. It is known that early stages have more chance to recover and their lifespan is generally longer than the late stages. Statistics indicate that around %15 of the lung cancer patients can live more than 5 years. However, the median lifespan for them is not more than 2 years.