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Treating Stage IV (Advanced) Lung Cancer

Stage IV lung cancer is lung cancer in its most advanced stage and has metastasized to other body organs, such as the pericardium, chest, and the other lung, among others. Although it may be found in the adrenal gland, lymph nodes, or kidneys, and other organs, this metastatic lung cancer often spreads to the liver, bones, or brain. This type of cancer spreads through the lymph system or bloodstream.

Most patients are found with stage IV lung cancer during their first diagnosis. Its symptoms vary, according to where it has spread. Cancer that has spread to the bones can cause bone fractures. If it has spread to the liver, the patient will experience bloating, nausea, jaundice, fatigue, or swelling in the extremities. Lung cancer that spreads to the brain will cause vision issues, headaches, and seizures or difficulty in speech.

Treatment for stage IV lung cancer depends on how extensive it has spread and where it has spread. Palliative treatment can be administered to ease the side effects and improve the quality of life of the patient.

Here are some of the treatment options for stage IV lung cancer;

  • Surgery – Surgery can be performed to remove affected lymph nodes and remove tumors from the lungs and chest cavity. If cancer has spread to multiple organs, surgery may not be an option, but it may be used to take out tumors that cause pain or side effects.
  • Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy drugs (checkpoint inhibitors) may be used to boost the immune system to identify and attack cancerous cells.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments. It may not be an option if the lung cancer has metastasized to the brain.
  • Radiation therapy – Radiation helps to shrink tumors and relieve lung cancer-related side effects. 
  • Photodynamic therapy – This is a palliative treatment that uses light and light-sensitive agents to shrink tumors within the lungs.
  • Targeted therapy – Targeted therapy drugs help to target specific proteins or receptors on the cancer cells in order to slow the tumor growth.

Stage IV lung cancer patients may be recommended for clinical trials and benefit from new treatments being tested for effectiveness in treating several types of cancer. Your doctor will advise whether a clinical trial is right for you or not.

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