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new cancer patient

Posts: 3
Joined: May 2010

Just informed on friday that I have lung cancer and the next step would be PET scan. I was told by the thoracic surgeone that it was in the mediastinal at the AP window but he calls it lung cancer. I also have a nodule on the right lung. Thoracic surgeon said they generally don't do surgery on a high risk person like me (smoked 50 years, have COPD, and a also a mass on my adrenal gland that supposedly wasn't a problem five years ago). Surgeon told me I had to start thinking if I wanted to continue any further appointments or if I wanted to go for treatments. Confused because he didn't tell me what type of cancer or what type of treatments available and what my prognosis is...........so I am confused at this point and of course, scared.

Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Welcome to the club no one wants to join! I've found the folks here to be a great support and I hope you find the same. I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006 after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. They turned out not to be related and both of my cancers were treatable by surgery. I got lucky twice, though it was a strange kind of luck. It's good to know what you have so you can start treating it, but I would have skipped having any cancer of course if I had a choice about it!

I think all of us are totally confused and scared when the doctor mentions the "C" word. I was definately scared witless especially the first time around. Getting a treatment plan helped. So did prayer. In my case, surgery was an option. But there are still options for folks whose cancer is inoperable. If your surgeon doesn't give you options, you may want to go for a second opinion. Even if he did provide options, a second doctor would give you his medically based opinion and might help you decide what is best.

If they have not done a biopsy of some sort so that they can see the cells under a microscope and do some genetic testing on them,they might not know what kind of cancer they are dealing with. Sometimes an xray or CAT scan makes it look pretty certain that you have cancer, but the treatment for different kinds of cancer is different.

Treatments for cancer often include surgery to remove a lung or part of a lung if the cancer hasn't traveled outside the lung. But if the cancer has already started to set up camp in places outside the lung, then chemotherapy is the usual route. Losing even part of a lung is major major surgery. If the cancer has already spread outside of the lung, then going through all that surgery still won't give you a longer life or less symptoms. The gain wouldn't be worth the pain. However, folks that can't have surgery still have treatment options. Some folks on this board were able to do surgery after the chemotherapy eliminated a lot of the cancer in their bodies. Others have held the cancer at bay with just chemotherapy for years. Cancer is something they live with.

Another route for removing cancer when surgery is not an option but the cancer hasn't started to spread away from the lung involves targeted dyes and laser treatments. Another I've read about is the gamma knife that I believe consists of a special kind of radiation therapy. Beams enter from several directions. Where they cross the radiation is strong enough to kill cells. The beams are used to kill a tumor without ever opening the patient up. I know it is used on brain tumors, but it may work on lungs too. You'd have to ask. Sometimes more conventional radiation therapy is used to kill enough cancer cells to relieve pain or improve a patient's functioning too. In that case, the doctors do not expect to cure the patient of cancer, but they still want to work as hard as possible to improve the patient's quality of life.

A PET scan is not painful though it takes over an hour of your time from start to finish. I think mine lasted almost two hours from the time I hit the office to the time I left. The actual scan part only takes a minute or two, but you have to drink some not too bad tasting stuff(not that I would order it for breakfast!) and rest for awhile so that all the cancer cells in your body, if any, will light up on the scan. The scan will show where any problems exist and give the doctors an idea of your prognosis. Between the biopsy of what kind of lung cancer you have and the PET scan, the oncologist (a cancer doctor that prescribes drugs to treat cancer) will know what treatments are likely to help.

If you are not a candidate for surgery, your doctor should certainly help refer you to an oncologist, preferably one specializing in lung cancer treatment. Good luck!

C. Abbott

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