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Inoperable Lung Cancer Doesn’t Mean Untreatable Lung Cancer

Aside from skin cancer, lung cancer is the most common form of cancer among men and women in the U.S. The American Cancer Society estimates nearly 225,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2014, and more than 150,000 people will die from the disease.

Given the high mortality rate of lung cancer, and the fact lung cancer deaths account for more than a quarter of all cancer-related deaths, receiving a lung cancer diagnosis can be terrifying. The news is made even more alarming if you hear your doctor say your cancer is inoperable. It’s important to understand that just because your cancer is inoperable, it doesn’t mean you do not have any treatment options or that your prognosis is terminal.

Understanding “Inoperable”

Part of the reason so many people die from lung cancer is it’s very difficult to detect in its early stages. Few people show symptoms, and usually, when symptoms appear, it’s because the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other parts of the body.

When you receive a diagnosis of lung cancer, regardless of the stage, your doctor may inform you the tumor or tumors are inoperable. This simply means your doctor does not believe surgery to remove the tumor would be an effective means of curing your cancer. Other methods, including CyberKnife radiation therapy, could be effective.

Why Lung Cancer May Be Inoperable

In our practice, we’ve found tumors are inoperable for a number of common reasons. Some of those reasons include:

The cancer’s location. Cancerous growths can appear anywhere in the lungs, and it is simply not practical to remove them from all areas. For example, if the cancer surrounds any of the major blood vessels in the center of the lungs, it is impossible to safely remove it without causing greater problems.

The patient’s overall health. Some patients simply are not healthy enough to withstand the rigors of lung surgery. Patients who have experienced significant cardiac episodes, including a heart attack or stroke, or who have serious pulmonary issues may not be good candidates for surgery and could have their cancer deemed inoperable.

The risks of surgery. In some cases, a traditional surgical intervention could cause greater harm to the patient than other cancer treatments. The foundation of the practice of medicine is to “do no harm,” and therefore patients who have a greater risk of serious side effects or complications from the surgery are not good candidates.

Non-Surgical Options

The fact that your lung cancer is deemed inoperable does not mean it is untreatable. It simply means it cannot be effectively cured with that method, and you will need to explore other options. This is why the CyberKnife treatment comes so highly recommended by many cancer treatment specialists

Your best course of action is to consult with your Pasadena CyberKnife specialist — and get a second opinion to explore your other treatment options. Above all, do not lose hope. You may still have a number of effective options to treat your disease and a chance at living a long life post-cancer.