India is home to over 1.3 billion people. With the rising population, there has been a substantial rise in the number of cancer cases. Cancer of the oral cavity, breast, uterus and lung cancers are the most common types of cancers that Indian men and women suffer from. Lung cancer treatment in India is based on stage wise diagnosis. While most cancers show some early signs, cancers like those of the lungs show little or no early symptoms in the early stages.
It is rather surprising to learn that a large majority of the Indian population who suffers from lung cancer are actually non-smokers as compared to the West where a majority of lung cancer cases occur in smokers. Also, lung cancer usually affects older people who are over the age of 40-45 years.
Lung cancer is primarily of two types:-
- Non-Small Cell Type- This is the more common type of lung cancer and forms about 87% of lung cancer cases. It can either be a squamous cell carcinoma, an adenocarcinoma or a large cell carcinoma
- Small-Cell Type- This type is less common but spreads faster than the non-small cell type
The type of treatment given to the patients depends upon the type and stage of lung cancer. With new treatments coming forth and imported cancer medicines now available in India there is hope for lung cancer survivorship.
Stage-Wise Lung Cancer Treatment In India
As mentioned earlier, early stages of lung cancer are almost asymptomatic. Before we move on to the stage-wise lung cancer treatment in India, here is what the various stages of lung cancer are:
Stage 1 Lung Cancer Treatment options:
In this stage, the cancer is confined to one lung and hasn’t spread outside it. Stage I of lung cancer ca be further divided into 2 – IA when the size of the tumor is less than equal to 3cms and IB when the size of the tumor is between 3cm-4cm.
Lung cancer treatment in India for stage I cancers is surgical removal of the tumor due to the small size of it. The oncosurgeon can remove the tumor completely, along with a portion of the lung, to treat the cancer. Chemotherapy may be given to some patients who are at a high risk of recurrence.
Stage 2 Lung Cancer Treatment options:
Stage 2 tumors are also divided into two further stages:
- Stage 2A wherein the cancer is larger than 4 cms in size but less than 5cms and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage 2B lung cancer is described by a tumor that is 5cms or less in size that may or may not have spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 2 lung cancer treatment in India are usually involves surgery to remove the tumor, and a part or whole of the lung. In cases where the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes, adjuvant therapies like chemotherapy may be needed post-surgery.
Stage 3 Lung Cancer Treatment options:
Stage 3 lung cancers can be divided into 3 sub-stages based on the size of the tumor and the spread of the cancer.
- In stage 3A lung cancer, the cancer is found to have spread to the nearby lymph nodes but affect those nodes that are on the same side as where the tumor started growing
- In stage 3B lung cancer, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest or to the lymph nodes present above the collarbone
In both these cases, it is difficult to remove the cancer completely with just surgery. In some cases, the cancer is removed surgically little by little whereas, in other cases, surgery is preceded and followed by chemotherapy. Stage 3 lung cancer treatment in India therefore, involves a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. All stage 3 and 4 lung cancer treatments require access to best lung cancer hospitals in India and best lung cancer experts in India.
Stage 4 Lung Cancer Treatment options:
This is the most advanced stage of lung cancer. Lung cancer is aid to be a stage 4 cancer when it has spread to more than one area in the opposite lung, in the fluid surrounding the lungs and the heart or distant parts of the body. Non-small cell lung cancer is more likely to spread to organs such as the liver, brain, bones or the adrenal glands.
This cancer can be sub-divided into two stages:
- Stage 4A wherein the cancer has spread within the chest and to one area outside of it
- Stage 4B wherein the cancer has spread outside the chest to one or more organs
Due to the advanced nature and the spread of stage 4 lung cancer, only surgery is not an option. The same is the case with stage 3 lung cancers. Stage 4 lung cancers are very difficult to treat and require a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, proton beam therapy, immunotherapy and/or targeted therapy.
As more cases of Lung cancer are getting diagnosed top lung cancer experts recommend genetic testing, next generation sequencing & second opinions. These tests provide chemo sensitivity to particular drugs and collaborative working of Indian experts along with international second opinion from top global cancer institutes is improving cancer survivorship.