When you are diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors in your lungs, you likely do not know what to think or do in the moment. However, as the news sinks in and your mind clears, your focus transitions to figuring out how you can treat your cancer. Before you go and meet with your doctor of oncology about your different treatment options, you will want to get to know some of these options yourself. That way, you know what you want for yourself and can ask pertinent questions as you and your doctor work together on a course of treatment that works for you.
One of the first lines of defense when a person has neuroendocrine tumors in their lungs (or elsewhere in their body) is to attempt to surgically remove them if possible. Of course, if there are several tumors or they are in too difficult a location or are too large, full surgical removal may not always be an option.
Your oncologist and surgeon will evaluate your neuroendocrine tumors and determine if they can remove them while leaving you enough healthy lung tissue to keep your lungs functioning as they should. If surgery is an option for you, your doctor will remove your neuroendocrine tumors along with a small border of healthy tissues that immediately surround the tumors. This method is designed to help prevent any microscopic cancerous cells from remaining in that area post-surgery.
Chemotherapy and Other Treatments
When neuroendocrine tumors in the lungs are found, the cancer is generally in the later stages, rather than in stage I (the earliest stage of cancer). This means that surgery alone is not usually going to completely eradicate the cancer cells. And even if your doctors believe that the removal of the tumors successfully rid your body of cancer, they will recommend additional treatments to be sure.
As such, aggressive chemotherapy is often a treatment for pulmonary (lung) neuroendocrine tumors. Chemotherapy is administered intravenously directly into the bloodstream and is a combination of drugs that are designed to attack rapidly and/or abnormally reproducing cells in the body. Cancer cells reproduce abnormally and quite fast compared to healthy tissues. As such, chemo drugs will target those cancer cells that remain in the body.
Chemotherapy is not the only treatment for neuroendocrine tumors, though it is often one of the first treatments used. Other options can include radiation therapy and a heat treatment known as radiofrequency ablation. These treatments are targeted at specific tumor clusters to shrink or stop the growth of those tumors.
Newer Treatments In the Works
Because neuroendocrine tumors in the lungs can be challenging to treat and are often aggressive, researchers and oncologists are always looking for new and innovative ways to stop or slow the growth progression of tumors and help their patients improve.
One of the newer treatments in the works uses an oral medication that is most often used in other types of cancer (such as kidney cancer and advanced breast cancer) and as an anti-rejection drug for transplant patients. This drug, known as everolimus, is being shown to dramatically slow the progression of pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors in patients in which other treatments may not have been as effective.
Everolimus is taken orally in pill form which is convenient for patients who prefer to spend as little time in the hospital and at the doctor's office as possible. While the use of this drug for pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors is still in the trial stages, keep an eye out for it to be more readily available or talk to your doctor about attempting to be a part of this or other clinical trials for your neuroendocrine tumors if you are interested.
Now that you know some of the treatment options for your pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors, you can head to your appointment with your oncologist in a trusted facility, such as Sturdy Memorial Hospital, with an idea of what to expect and ready to discuss your options.