doctor Find a doctor
OR

Treatments

How Is Lung Cancer Treated?

Specialists from medical oncology, radiation oncology, thoracic and cardiothoracic surgery, pulmonology, radiology, and other medical disciplines combine their expertise to provide each patient with an integrated, individualized treatment plan, which may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. Patients may be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials if an investigational lung cancer therapy is appropriate.

The Center’s specialists apply a wide array of state-of-the-art techniques to cure patients by removing and killing cancerous tissue. Surgeons also use the most advanced techniques to relieve the symptoms of patients with advanced disease so they may improve their quality of life.

Surgery and Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures

Lung Resection

Lung resection is the surgical removal of all or part of the lung, because of lung cancer or other lung disease. Surgery can provide a cure in some cancer cases, when the tumor is discovered early.

For cancer patients, the type of resection will be based on the tumor location, size, and type, as well as the patient’s overall health prior to diagnosis.

Sternotomy

The surgeon makes an incision in the center of your chest and separates the sternum (breastbone). The surgeon then locates and removes the tumor.

Thoractomy

Thoracotomy involves the surgeon making an incision in your side, back, or in some cases between your ribs, to gain access to the desired area.

VATS

VATS stands for video-assisted thorascopic surgery. This minimally invasive alternative to open chest surgery greatly reduces patient’s pain, recovery time and risk for infection. When using VATS, the physician makes tiny incisions in the patient’s chest and inserts a thorascope (a fiber-optic camera) as well as surgical instruments. As the physician turns the thorascope, its views are displayed on a video monitor to guide surgery. The surgeon has no need to stress or cut ribs, because all movements are performed at the tip of the instrument, at the point of contact with the cancerous tissue.

Robotic-Assisted Mediastinal Tumor Resection

The surgeon uses a computer-controlled device that moves, positions, and manipulates surgical tools based on the surgeon's movements. The surgeon sits at a computer console with a monitor and the camera provides a three-dimensional view of the heart that is magnified ten times greater than a person's normal vision. The surgeon's hands control the robotic arms to perform the procedure.

Laser Resection

Some tumors are hard to reach through surgery because of where they are. However, a laser can strike small tumors in delicate or hard-to-reach areas. When conducting a laser resection, the surgeon inserts a tool through a small incision, directs the laser at the tumor, and transmits the high-energy beam, which destroys cancerous tissue by vaporizing it.

Wedge Resection

Also known as segmentectomy, this treatment for early-stage cancer removes an area of lung smaller than a lobe—usually the tumor and a small area of healthy lung tissue around it.

Lobectomy

The removal of a lobe, this operation is usually effective at taking out all the cancerous tissue and decreasing the chance of cancer coming back. BMC was the first hospital in New England to perform robotic lobectomies, which require only small incisions. Robotic surgery is less painful and offers faster recovery times than more standard operations for lung cancer.

Pneumonectomy

This option, removal of an entire lung, is considered if a tumor is large or located in a difficult-to-reach or central position in the lung. Although pneumonectomy can result in significant loss of function, many people live quite well with only one lung.

Minimally Invasive Tumor Removal

Video-Assisted Thorascopic Surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive alternative to open chest surgery that involves less pain and recovery time. After giving you a sedative, the physician will make tiny incisions in your chest and then insert a fiber-optic camera called a thorascope as well as surgical instruments. As the physician moves the thorascope around, images that provide important information are projected on a video monitor. VATS is not appropriate for all patients; you should have a thorough discussion with your provider before making a decision. It is often not recommended in people who have had chest surgery in the past, because remaining scar tissue can make accessing the chest cavity more challenging and thus riskier.

How to Prepare for a Lung Resection

Lung resection is typically performed under general anesthesia, so the patient is asleep during the procedure. It is important to follow any physician instructions to prepare for surgery. These instructions generally include:

  • Avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight the night before.
  • Bring all of medications to the hospital.
  • Arrive one hour prior to the surgery time.

There may be a pre-admission appointment one to two weeks beforehand, for routine blood testing and consultation with the anesthesiologist.

If possible, patients should engage in some mild physical activity such as walking, and eat a balanced diet leading up to the scheduled surgery; this includes limiting alcohol consumption to 1-2 glasses per day. They should inform the medical team of the following in the week before surgery:

  • All the medications that they take, both prescription and over-the-counter, including herbs, supplements, aspirin, and corticosteroids
  • If they have asthma or emphysema

Smoking cessation must occur two to three weeks prior in order for surgery to be effective. Some operations will not be performed if the patient is still smoking.

What to Expect During a Lung Resection

On the day before surgery, the patient will receive a call from the Center, with information about the following day, including where to go and when to arrive. On arrival, they will be taken to a pre-surgery area to measure their temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and listen to their heart and lungs. They may have their blood tested, an x-ray, or be attached to a heart monitor in the surgery room. An intravenous (IV) line will be placed in their arm, so that medications may be administered before, during, and after the procedure.

Surgery may take several hours. Family members may wait in the Family Waiting Room.

Recovery after a Lung Resection

Patients are taken after surgery to the Post Anesthesia Unit and monitored for any changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. The IV line will remain inserted, to keep the patient hydrated and to administer pain medication, if necessary. Patients may also require the use of a ventilator to ensure air exchange and to prevent pneumonia for a period after surgery.

In most cases, if oxygen is required when the patient goes home, it is only for a few weeks. Before discharge, the patient’s nurse will instruct how to use any equipment they might need, how to care for the incision, and review any medications. Over a few weeks, patients regain strength and are able to return to work and participate in physical activity. Patients should take their medicine exactly as prescribed, and call their doctor if they have any questions or notice any of the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • High temperature
  • Coughing up yellow, green, or bloody mucus
  • Allergic reaction, such as redness, swelling, trouble breathing
  • Pain

Photodynamic Therapy for Lung Cancer

Photodynamic therapy (PDT), also called photoradiation therapy, phototherapy, and photochemotherapy, has existed for about 100 years and is a type of cancer treatment that uses light to kill abnormal cells. A special drug called a photosensitizer, or photosensitizing agent, is circulated through the bloodstream.

After the agent has been absorbed by the cancer, usually over a period of a few hours to a few days, the tumor is exposed to a special kind of light which together with the agent destroys cancer cells. PDT is thought to potentially also destroy tumor-feeding blood vessels and stimulate the immune system to attack the cancer cells.

PDT is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat or relieve the symptoms of esophageal cancer and the most common form of lung cancer, called non-small cell lung cancer. A handful of photosensitizers are approved; the best one for each patient depends on their specific diagnosis.

PDT is a promising treatment for certain types of tumors because in some cases, it can cure cancer. It is also:

  • Less invasive and quicker than surgery and other procedures
  • Leaves little to no scarring and has no long-term side effects
  • Can be targeted very precisely to cancerous cells
  • Can be repeated many times at the same site

Treatment can make the eyes and skin especially sensitive to light for about six weeks. During this time, patients should avoid direct sunlight and bright indoor light. Because the basis of phototherapy is light, its treatment is limited to areas on or just below the skin. Newer, more sophisticated photosensitizing methods are in development.

Side effects are rare, but may include:

  • Burning, swelling, or pain on or below the skin's surface
  • Coughing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Painful breathing
  • Shortness of breath

How to Prepare for PDT

It is important to follow any physician instructions to prepare for surgery.

What to Expect During PDT

Each session of PDT is relatively simple. Patients receive either a photosensitizer drug and wait until it has concentrated in the tumor, or they may have the drug administered and return days later for phototreatment. Phototreatment takes place on an exam table, and the patient receives local or general medicines for pain control and relaxation. The appropriate type of light is activated over the tumor in a strong, targeted beam. The procedure lasts as little as a few minutes, and up to two hours.

Recovery from PDT

Recovery from PDT is typically quite easy. Patients may experience some dryness or mild burning on the skin, but other effects are uncommon. Gentle skin products such as Vaseline can be helpful. Avoid the sun, as light sensitivity is increased for a time following PDT; even a few minutes of sun exposure can sometimes cause discomfort. Please follow any doctor's instructions regarding medications and physical activity, but most patients are able to return to normal activities right away.

Tumor Ablation

Tumor ablation is an image-guided, minimally invasive treatment used to destroy cancer cells. In tumor ablation, a physician inserts a specially equipped needle (probe) into the tumor or tumors guided by computed tomography (CT). Once the probe is in place, energy is transmitted through it and into the tumor.

Radiofrequency Ablation for Cancer

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a cancer treatment in which radiofrequency energy—derived from electric and magnetic energy—is sent by means of a narrow probe that is placed in the center of a lung tumor. Surgical incisions are not required, and the probes are placed into tumors using CT scan to guide the physician. RFA is a newer method of treating lung cancer, as well as cancers of the liver, kidney, and bone. RFA can target and kill cancerous cells sparing healthy tissues that are close to the cancer. Systemic treatments such as chemotherapy and certain types of radiation are absorbed into both healthy and diseased tissue, whereas RFA is delivered directly into a tumor.

RFA can provide a cure for small cancers limited to the lungs. It can also slow the progression of larger tumors or be used in combination with other treatments for lung cancer. RFA has a very low rate of complications and is generally well tolerated. Since it is a local treatment, treating only tumors that are visible, it is preferred for patients that are unable to tolerate more standard types of surgery.

How to Prepare for RFA

Before treatment with RFA, patients have a physical examination and medical history, and the physician may order one or more of the following tests:

Blood Tests

A common tool for disease screening, blood tests provide information about many substances in the body, such as blood cells, hormones, minerals, and proteins.

Biopsy

Any suspicious mass of tissue or tumor is subject to a biopsy, or removal of cells from the mass. This is the only technique that can confirm the presence of cancer cells. The doctor will use a general or local anesthetic depending on the location of the mass, and then remove a sample of tissue to send to the lab. The sample is sent to a pathologist, a physician who is an expert at identifying diseased cells in tissue samples. Very often, a few stiches are used to help the area heal, and tenderness is felt for a short period of time.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

CT scans use x-ray equipment and computer processing to produce 2-dimensional images of the body. The patient lies on a table and passes through a machine that looks like a large, squared-off donut. Doctors order CT scans when they want to see a two-dimensional image of the body to look for tumors and examine lymph nodes and bone abnormalities. If contrast dye is used to improve the computer image, the patient may need to avoid eating or drinking for 4 to 6 hours before the test. Patients should tell their provider before the test if they have any allergies or kidney problems.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan

A PET scan is used to detect cellular reactions to sugar. Abnormal cells tend to react and "light up" on the scan, thus helping physicians diagnose a variety of conditions. For the PET scan, a harmless chemical, called a radiotracer, is injected into your blood stream. Once it has had time to move through your body, you will lie on a table while a scanner follows the radiotracer and sends three-dimensional images to a computer screen. Patients are generally asked to wear comfortable clothing and refrain from eating for 4 hours before the scan. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Patients with diabetes should discuss diet guidelines with their physician for the hours leading up to the scan.

Patients should mention all medications they take, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbs, and supplements, and any allergies. They will most likely be asked to avoid food and drink after midnight on the night before their scheduled procedure. Water is usually allowed up to two hours beforehand.

What to Expect During RFA

RFA is performed under general anesthesia and patients stay overnight. Sometimes, a mild sedative and local anesthetic are sufficient—and patients can resume normal activities typically within one week, as opposed to open surgery, which requires longer hospital stays, longer recovery, and more risk of infection and complications.

The RFA probe is guided by an imaging tool such as ultrasound or CT into the tumor. Once the probe is placed in the tumor, the radiofrequency energy is delivered, causing heating of the cancer and a small area of lung immediately surrounding this. Temperatures in the tumor can rise to 90° C (194° F). Cancer cells will start to immediately die at 60° C (140° F).

After the abnormal cells are killed, they shrink and turn to scar tissue over time. Unlike surgery where the cancer is removed, there will usually be a scar remaining in the area of the treated tumor. It is important that patients continue to follow up with their physician with repeated CT scans to make sure that there is no further tumor growth.

Recovery from RFA

Immediately after the procedure, the physician takes CT images to make sure the treatment was successful in destroying abnormal tissue. The patient is usually discharged the next morning, and should be able to resume normal activities within the week. Minor complications may include low-grade fever, bruising, pain, and/or infection. Patients should call the Center if they notice any of these symptoms or anything else of concern, or if they have trouble breathing.

Seed Implantation

This internal form of radiotherapy is delivered during a surgical procedure to remove cancerous tissue. When the resection is complete, the surgeon, in collaboration with the radiation oncologist implants seed-like radioactive pellets near the remaining portion of the lung to prevent new growth of cancer cells. The pellets remain in place for the rest of the patient’s life, although their level of radiation decreases over time.

How to Prepare for Seed Implantation/Lung Resection

Seed implantation occurs at the same time as lung resection, which is typically performed under general anesthesia. It is important to follow any physician instructions to prepare for surgery. These generally include:

  • Avoiding eating or drinking anything after midnight on the night before
  • Bringing all of one’s medications to the hospital
  • Arriving one hour prior to surgery time

Patients may have a pre-admission appointment one to two weeks beforehand, in which they will have routine blood testing, any heart imaging, such as an electrocardiogram, and consultation with the anesthesiologist.

If possible, the patient should engage in some mild physical activity such as walking, and eat a balanced diet leading up to the scheduled surgery; this includes limiting alcohol consumption to 1-2 glasses per day. Smokers should make every effort to quit because it may complicate their surgery and can lead to new cancers. Patients should inform the medical team of the following in the week before:

  • If they have asthma or emphysema
  • If they take medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, including herbs, supplements, aspirin, and corticosteroids

What to Expect During Seed Implantation/Lung Resection

On the day before the procedure, the patient will be given information about the following day, including where to go and when to arrive. They should leave any valuables at home, and wear comfortable clothes.

On arrival, they will be taken to a pre-surgery area to measure their temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and to listen to their heart and lungs. Then, they may have their blood tested, an x-ray, or be attached to a heart monitor in the surgery room. An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted, so that medications may be administered before, during, and after the procedure.

To perform the wedge resection or segmentectomy, the surgeon may use thoracoscopy or thoracotomy.

  • For a thoracoscopy, the physician makes short incisions in the chest and then insert a fiber-optic camera called a thorascope as well as surgical instruments. As the physician moves the thorascope around, images that provide important information are projected on a video monitor. The portion of the lung where the tumor is located is removed.
  • For a thoracotomy, the surgeon makes a larger incision in the chest and removes the portion of the lung where the tumor is located.

With either approach, once the diseased portion of lung has been removed, the surgeon will complete the procedure by implanting the seeds in the cut margin. The entire procedure takes about 1 hour.

Recovery from Seed Implantation/Lung Resection

After surgery, patients are taken to the Post Anesthesia Unit and monitored for any changes in blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. The IV line remains inserted, to keep the patient hydrated and administer pain medication, if necessary. The patient may also use a ventilator or other breathing assist device, such as an incentive spirometer (which encourages deep breaths), to ensure air exchange and to prevent pneumonia. If an endotracheal tube was inserted during surgery to control breathing, it may remain in place for a brief time.

Before the patient is discharged, the patient’s physician or nurse will instruct on how to use the oxygen device, if applicable, and how to care for the incision. Gradually, over the course of a few weeks, patients regain their strength and are able to return to work and participate in physical activity. Patients should take their medicine exactly as prescribed, and call their doctor if they have any questions or notice any of the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • High temperature
  • Coughing up yellow, green, or bloody mucus
  • Allergic reaction, such as redness, swelling, trouble breathing

Pleurodesis or Pleural Effusion

Pleurodesis is a therapy that we offer for lung cancer patients to remove excess fluid—called pleural effusion—from the space between the lungs and chest wall that line the lungs (pleura). This fluid prevents the lungs from fully expanding as you breathe, causing shortness of breath. Pleural effusion is usually diagnosed by means of a chest x-ray, and a sample of the fluid may be taken to confirm its cause. There are a few ways to perform pleurodesis. One such way is video-assisted thoracoscopy, a new, less invasive method that we offer at BMC. Using a thoracoscope, a small, thin instrument with a light and lens, your surgeon will locate the area to be treated, drain your lung fluid, and then insert a talcum powder or antibiotic solution. This solution will circulate in the space between the pleura lining the chest wall and the lungs, causing some minor irritation and inflammation, which then causes the tissues to stick together, eliminating the space. Further fluid buildup is thereby prevented, allowing you to breathe easier. If the procedure is not successful, it may be repeated. Pleurodesis does not treat lung cancer, but it can be a very helpful tool in reducing symptoms.

Cryoablation

Cryoablation, sometimes called cryotherapy, is a minimally invasive treatment used to destroy diseased cells in the esophagus caused by esophageal cancer and/or Barrett's esophagus. For cryoablation, a physician inserts a small tube (endoscope) through your mouth and into your esophagus. Once the endoscope is in place, liquid nitrogen is sprayed through the endoscope into the esophagus. The liquid nitrogen freezes the lining of your esophagus. The frozen cells die and are replaced by healthy cells. Cryoablation is used to treat Barrett's esophagus with high-grade dysplasia, and some early stage esophageal cancers. It can also be used to improve symptoms of advanced cancers. These symptoms include difficulty swallowing and bleeding.

Microwave Ablation

Microwave ablation is a cancer treatment in which microwave energy is sent through a narrow, microwave antenna that has been placed inside a tumor. The microwave energy creates heat, which destroys the diseased cells and tissue. It is a newer method of treating lung cancer that can target and kill cancerous cells and relieve pain.

How to Prepare for Microwave Ablation

Before treatment with microwave ablation, the patient has a physical examination and medical history, and the physician may order one or more of the following tests:

Blood Tests

A common tool for disease screening, blood tests provide information about many substances in the body, such as blood cells, hormones, minerals, and proteins.

Biopsy

Any suspicious mass of tissue or tumor is subject to a biopsy, or removal of cells from the mass. This is the only technique that can confirm the presence of cancer cells. The doctor will use a general or local anesthetic depending on the location of the mass, and then remove a sample of tissue to send to the lab. The sample is sent to a pathologist, a physician who is an expert at identifying diseased cells in tissue samples. Very often, a few stiches are used to help the area heal, and tenderness is felt for a short period of time.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

CT scans use x-ray equipment and computer processing to produce 2-dimensional images of the body. The patient lies on a table and passes through a machine that looks like a large, squared-off donut. Doctors order CT scans when they want to see a two-dimensional image of the body to look for tumors and examine lymph nodes and bone abnormalities. If contrast dye is used to improve the computer image, the patient may need to avoid eating or drinking for 4 to 6 hours before the test. Patients should tell their provider before the test if they have any allergies or kidney problems.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This test uses a magnetic field, radiofrequency pulses, and a computer to produce detailed images of body structures in multiple places. You may be asked to drink a contrast solution for better imaging, and you will most likely lie on a moving table as pictures are taken. MRI is a more detailed tool than x-ray and ultrasound and for certain organs or areas of the body, it provides better images than CT. MRI may not be recommended if you have a pacemaker or other metal implant.

Patients should tell their doctor about any allergies to medication or if they have had problems with anesthesia. The surgeon will give specific instructions about dietary or activity restrictions, and will also instruct whether it is safe take any regular medications prior to the procedure or on the day of the procedure. Patients also may be asked to not eat or drink after midnight on the night before their procedure, and they may wish to ask a friend or family member to drive them to their procedure.

What to Expect During Microwave Ablation

Microwave ablation may be performed on an outpatient basis and may not require general anesthesia—a mild sedative and local anesthetic are often enough. The patient will be positioned on an examining table, and will be connected to machines that monitor heart rate and blood pressure during the procedure. A nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line in the patient’s hand or arm to give sedatives and other medications and fluids.

The physician will use a CT scan to precisely locate the tumor. A small incision is made, and an antenna is advanced through the incision to the site of the tumor using CT guidance.

Once the antenna is in place, the energy source will be activated. The heat also helps close small blood vessels and lessens the risk of bleeding. After the abnormal cells are killed, they shrink and turn to scar tissue over time. Each ablation takes between 10 and 30 minutes, and the entire procedure typically takes between one and three hours.

Recovery from Microwave Ablation

Following the ablation procedure, patients are taken to an anesthesia recovery room where their vital signs will be monitored. In addition, they will have a chest x-ray to ensure that their lung has not collapsed from an air pocket created in the space between their lungs and chest wall (called a pneumothorax). If the physician finds a pneumothorax, which is rare, they may have insert a tube to remove the air.

Once stabilized, the patient may be transferred to a hospital room, and may stay overnight. Typically, patients are discharged within 24 to 48 hours after tumor ablation. Recovery is usually quick, and patients are able to resume normal activities within a few days. They may experience discomfort from the ablation needle site, and may experience fatigue, muscle ache, and possibly a low-grade fever (up to 102° F) for several days following the procedure.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a medication or combination of medications used to treat cancer. Chemotherapy can be given orally (as a pill) or injected intravenously (IV). When chemotherapy drugs enter the bloodstream, they destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is particularly useful for cancers that have metastisized, or spread. Chemotherapy attacks all quickly-dividing cells, regardless of whether they are cancerous which can cause a number of side effects, including hair loss, mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and low blood counts. Low blood counts can increase a patient’s risk of infection, bruising or bleeding, fatigue, and shortness of breath. The side effects of chemotherapy are generally temporary and often go away once treatment is completed. Chemotherapy regimens vary from patient to patient. They are generally repeated several times in cycles, with three to four weeks separating each cycle to allow damaged normal cells time to recover. After the first two or three sessions of chemotherapy, patients may have a CT or PET scan to see if the drug(s) is effective. If the drug(s) is not working, it may be switched out for a new drug(s).

Radiation Therapy

Radiation uses special equipment to deliver high-energy particles, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams or protons, to kill or damage cancer cells. Radiation (also called radiotherapy, irradiation, or x-ray therapy) can be delivered internally through seed implantation or externally using linear accelerators (called external beam radiotherapy, or EBRT). Radiation may be used as a solitary treatment or with surgery and/or chemotherapy. The equipment used to deliver the radiation therapy is called a linear accelerator. The linear accelerator has a moveable arm, which enables the radiation to be focused on the part of your body where the cancer is located. Developments in EBRT equipment have enabled physicians to offer conformal radiation. With conformal radiation, computer software uses imaging scans to map the cancer three-dimensionally. The radiation beams are then shaped to conform, or match, the shape of the tumor.

Radiation works by breaking a portion of the DNA of a cancer cell, which prevents it from dividing and growing. Radiation therapy can be systemic, meaning it moves throughout your bloodstream. Systemic therapies are usually given as an injection into a blood vessel or are taken as a pill. Systemic treatments expose your entire body to cancer-fighting medication. Radiation therapy is typically given as a "local" treatment however, meaning it affects only the part of the body that needs therapy.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy is one of the most common types of radiation for cancer treatment. Radiation comes from a machine outside the body and delivers radiation to a specific location inside the body.

CyberKnife

CyberKnife delivers highly targeted beams of radiation directly into tumors, in a pain-free, non-surgical way. Guided by specialized imaging software, we can track and continually adjust treatment at any point in the body, and without the need for the head frames and other equipment that are needed for some other forms of radiosurgery.

Brachytherapy

Also known as internal radiation therapy, brachytherapy delivers radiation directly into the tumor (called interstitial brachytherapy) or into a surgical cavity or body cavity near it (called intracavitary brachytherapy). By delivering the radiation directly into the tumor or into a nearby cavity, the radiation only needs to travel a short distance, causing less damage to the surrounding normal tissue. Radioactive material is sealed in a delivery device called an “implant.” The implant is inserted into the body using an applicator (often a hollow tube called a catheter). Imaging tests, such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans, are used to guide the radiation oncologist in placing the implant. Depending on the location of the tumor or cavity, the patient will receive either general anesthesia (drugs used to put the patient into a deep sleep) or local anesthesia (drugs used to numb the area being treated). Implants can be permanent or temporary. For high-dose-rate (HDR) treatment, the radiation oncologist places high-dose implants into the tumor or cavity for a short period of time (generally less than one hour) and then removes them. HDR treatment is given on an outpatient basis and may be repeated over several days or several weeks. Currently, HDR treatment is offered to patients with gynecologic cancers, such as cervical cancer, endometrial (uterine) cancer, uterine sarcoma (cancer of the muscle and supporting tissues of the uterus), and vaginal cancer.

Integrative Therapy: Integrative medicine practices have been shown to reduce cancer-related symptoms such as pain, anxiety, nausea, and fatigue. The Program for Integrative Medicine and Health Care Disparities in the Department of Family Medicine at BMC combines conventional medical treatments with evidence-based complementary therapies. Free therapeutic massage to decrease preoperative anxiety and postoperative pain in cancer patients undergoing surgical procedures is available. In the Moakley Building, where BMC conducts much of its cancer care, a registered yoga instructor holds free biweekly yoga classes, and a licensed acupuncturist offers free acupuncture to cancer patients. Participants in these sessions have gained notable clinical benefits, reporting decreases in pain, depression, anxiety, nausea, and fatigue. Services to individual patients complement group activities. Consultations that focus on stress management, nutrition, and coordination of complementary therapies are also available.

Follow-Up Care

Periodic follow-up care is very important after treatment for lung cancer to make sure the patient remains free of tumors. At BMC, each patient’s treatment plan includes services that go well beyond the procedures to remove the cancer. A patient’s plan will include

  • Services and guidance to relieve side effects
  • Procedures to monitor and control pain during and after treatment
  • Guidance and follow-up on the details of home care

Management of care continues over the weeks, months, and years following treatment. And for out-of-town patients, this care includes collaboration with local health care providers for follow-up, using the hospital’s nationwide network of health care institutions.

OR