According to an article recently published in the journal Chest, long-term lung functions and physical findings were not impaired following treatment including both chemotherapy and radiation to the chest in patients with limited-stage small cell lung cancer.
Small cell lung cancers (SCLC) account for 20-25% of all lung cancers and are primarily diagnosed in smokers or former smokers. They differ from other types of lung cancer in that they spread very quickly throughout the body via the blood and lymphatic system.
Limited SCLC refers to cancer that is confined to a single location in the chest and is not detectable outside the lung. Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the chest are commonly used for the treatment of limited SCLC. However, long-tem functioning of the lungs or other physical findings of patients undergoing both chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the chest remains unclear; this is an important consideration since treatment for cancer often carries long-term risks.
Researchers from several institutions in the US recently evaluated data of patients from three different clinical trials evaluating the combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for limited SCLC.
This trial studied information from 156 patients treated between 1974 and 1994. Lung symptoms and function, physical findings, chest imaging studies, and blood gas measurements were performed on these patients prior to therapy at 1 to 2 years, at 3 to 5 years, and at greater than 5 years following initiation of therapy.
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- Twenty three patients lived beyond 5 years without evidence of a cancer recurrence.
- Seven patients had no lung symptoms.
- Pulmonary function tests demonstrated no significant changes over the review period.
- Chest imaging studies showed changes ranging from none to minimal beyond 5 years.
The researchers concluded that for patients with limited SCLC, treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the chest does not impair long-term lung and physical symptoms.
Reference: Myers J, O’Neil K, Walsh T, et al. The Pulmonary Status of Patients With Limited-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer 15 Years After Treatment With Chemotherapy and Chest Irradiation. *Chest.*2005;128:3261-3268.
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