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How Long Does Chemo Prolong Life in Lung Cancer Patients?

How Long Does Chemo Prolong Life in Lung Cancer Patients?

“It’s cancer.” No one ever wants to hear these two words from their doctor, and yet the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 238,340 new lung cancer diagnoses in 2023 alone. There are also expected to be approximately 127,070 lung cancer deaths.

Depending on the stage and advancement of a diagnosis, lung cancer may be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, or any combination of these. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, it is important to work closely with your oncologist and pulmonologist to determine the best course of treatment for your specific diagnosis.

We understand that this period of time in your life may be marked by confusion and worry. Questions like, “How long does chemo prolong life in lung cancer patients?” and “What if my diagnosis is an occupational illness?” are far from uncommon. While all specific medical questions should be directed to your doctor, Frost Law Firm, PC has compiled general information that you may find helpful as you wait for your next appointment.

Small Cell vs. Non-Small Cell

The majority of cancer diagnoses fall into two main categories: small cell and non-small cell. Lung cancer is also broken down into the following stages:

  • Stage I – The cancer is only found in one localized area. It is also called early-stage cancer.
  • Stages II & III – The cancer has grown larger and spread into surrounding lymph nodes and tissues. The extent of the spread determines whether it is Stage II or Stage III.
  • Stage IV – The cancer has grown larger and spread to other distant parts of the body. It is also called metastatic or advanced cancer.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer is much rarer, accounting for only around 20% of all cancer diagnoses in the U.S. It is named for the appearance of small cells when this cancer is viewed through the lens of a microscope. Although there may be other causes, small cell lung cancer is most often associated with smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke. Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for small cell lung cancer.

The two types of small cell lung cancer are:

  • Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer)
  • Combined small cell carcinoma

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer makes up approximately 80% of all new cancer diagnoses, the majority of which are caused by smoking and secondhand smoke. Exposure to asbestos, radon, chloride, formaldehyde, and a variety of toxic alloys and chemicals are also known to cause the development of non-small cell lung cancer in some patients.

The three types of non-small cell lung cancer are:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Large cell carcinoma

Life Expectancy for Lung Cancer Patients

According to the American Cancer Society, life expectancy among lung cancer patients depends on the type of diagnosis (small cell or non-small cell) and SEER stage. Maintained by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database creates survival predictions for various types of cancers based on statistical data.

The three different SEER stages that influence life expectancy are:

  • Localized – Cancer is contained within the lung and has not spread.
  • Regional – Cancer has spread outside of the lung and may be found in surrounding lymph nodes and structures.
  • Distant – Cancer has spread and may be found in distant parts of the body, including bones, liver, and the brain.

Based on SEER stages, the average five-year survival rate for small cell lung cancer patients is:

  • Localized – 29%
  • Regional – 18%
  • Distant – 3%
  • Total – 7%

Based on SEER stages, the average five-year survival rate for non-small cell lung cancer patients is:

  • Localized – 64%
  • Regional – 37%
  • Distant – 8%
  • Total – 26%

Early diagnosis and treatment is critical for improved life expectancy in lung cancer patients. If you smoke, have a history of smoking, have a history of being around secondhand smoke, or were exposed to toxic substances in your workplace, be on the lookout for early warning signs of lung cancer:

  • A cough that gets worse or won’t go away despite treatment
  • Chest pain that gets worse when laughing, coughing, or taking a deep breath
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rust-colored phlegm or spit
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Fatigue or feelings of weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Persistent back pain

If you notice any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. Explain the symptoms you’re experiencing, how long you’ve had them, and if you have any risk factors for lung cancer. Seek a second opinion if your doctor dismisses your concerns.

How Long Does Chemo Prolong Life for Lung Cancer Patients?

Chemotherapy is a drug treatment primarily used to treat cancer patients. Designed to kill fast-growing cells in the body, chemotherapy is one of the most effective treatment options for many cancer patients, including those diagnosed with lung cancer. Chemotherapy is administered intravenously, either through a vein in the arm or a device called a “port” in the chest. The number and frequency of infusions will vary depending on the type and severity of a patient’s cancer.

There are several factors that impact how well chemotherapy treats a person’s cancer, including its stage as well as the patient’s age and overall health. Chemotherapy is unlikely to have much of an effect on Stage IV (metastatic) cancers, whereas it can add months or even years to a person’s life if they have been diagnosed with Stage I – III cancer.

Whether chemotherapy is combined with other forms of treatment, such as surgery or radiation, will also influence how long it prolongs life expectancy.

Quit Smoking To Reduce Your Chance of Lung Cancer

Cigarette smoking is the single greatest cause of lung cancer diagnoses in the U.S. You can significantly lower your risk of developing lung cancer by quitting smoking. Johns Hopkins Medicine describes the act of quitting smoking as “one of the best health decisions you can make.”

  • If you quit smoking before the age of 40, your chance of premature death from lung cancer will decrease by 90%.
  • If you quit smoking by the age of 54, your chance of premature death from lung cancer will decrease by 66%.
  • If you quit smoking after being diagnosed with cancer, your chance of premature death from certain cancers will decrease by as much as 40%.

Resources for smoking cessation (quitting) can be found on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Jobs and Occupations With the Greatest Risk of Developing Lung Cancer

Not every lung cancer diagnosis is the result of smoking cigarettes or inhaling secondhand smoke. Individuals working in high-risk industries face a heightened risk of developing lung cancer compared to their peers in other industries, even if they never smoked cigarettes.

If you were diagnosed with lung cancer and worked in any of the following industries or positions, your diagnosis may be related to your occupation:

  • Metal workers
  • Barbers, hairstylists, and salon workers
  • Manicurists
  • Dry cleaner workers
  • Welders
  • Coal miners
  • Firefighters
  • Construction workers
  • Manufacturing and factory workers
  • Auto mechanics
  • Farm workers
  • Painters

Working in the above industries may also put you at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen.

Life After a Lung Cancer or Mesothelioma Diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma and you believe another person’s, business’, or entity’s negligence could be to blame, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with Frost Law Firm, PC.

Our law office has the expertise needed to carefully trace sources of contamination or exposure to toxic materials, even when that exposure occurred decades in the past. Contact us by phone or via our online form to set up a free meeting with a mesothelioma lawyer.

Our Experience Is Personal

Scott L. Frost’s Family Experience with Lung Cancer

For most of his life, Scott L. Frost’s father, who was in the construction industry, worked with and sold products containing asbestos without knowing the materials were dangerous. He was diagnosed with lung cancer 40 years after starting his career, leading Scott’s family to fight like they had never fought before.

Pictured here with his wife of over 50 years, Scott’s father eventually succumbed to the cancer. Since then, Scott has made it his mission to do everything in his power to make sure corporations understand how dangerous asbestos is and prevent future generations from suffering as his family did, as well as support research that may lead to finding a cure.

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