An injection bottle, inhaler and pill bottle

Lung Cancer Additional Treatment Experiences

Undergoing lung cancer treatment can feel like a tiring and demanding process. Just making the decision about which type of treatment is the best course of action can be overwhelming. While many people undergo traditional methods like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, there are other treatment options to consider.

In our 4th Annual Lung Cancer In America survey, we asked respondents to tell us about the treatment options they selected beyond the traditional methods. More than 800 people with lung cancer completed the survey, providing insight into what prompted their treatment decisions and their experiences. Following the survey, we turned to community members on our Facebook page and asked them to also share details about their treatment.

Deciding on a treatment plan

“I have stage III lung cancer in my upper right lung, it takes up a third of my lung. [I] Went through 7 chemo and 33 radiation treatments. It shrank a half-inch. [I] Start immunotherapy next Wednesday.”

The type and stage of lung cancer may dictate which treatment approach is available and might work best. A doctor may recommend one type of therapy over another, depending on a person’s health and prognosis. In some cases, more than one treatment option can be used. Many survey respondents shared that they used a combination of therapies to treat their lung cancer

  • 89 percent had doctor input on choosing treatment
  • 43 percent said friends and family helped select treatment
  • 49 percent said drug efficacy was a top decision factor
  • 23 percent only had one treatment option available

Experiences with immunotherapy

“[I had] Stage IV NSCLC and it metastasized to lymph nodes and scapula. [I] received 21 infusions over 15 months of Keytruda. Currently no evidence of disease for 16 months.”

Less than 15 percent of survey respondents said they used immunotherapy as their first treatment option. However, many used immunotherapy as a supportive and additional treatment option. Opdivo (nivolumab) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab) were the most commonly used.

  • 51 percent discussed immunotherapy at diagnosis
  • 13 percent used immunotherapy as their first treatment option
  • Keytruda was the leader for current brand usage

Targeted therapy for lung cancer treatment

“[I had] Three doses of chemo with 30 rounds of radiation. Then Tarceva for 18 months then progressed to my liver. Had a biopsy and then started Tagrisso. No evidence of disease for 3 1/2 years.”

Awareness of targeted therapy is growing within the lung cancer community. Nearly 30 percent of respondents said targeted therapy was discussed at diagnosis, but it was not often selected as the first line of treatment. Avastin (bevacizumab) and Alimta (pemetrexed) were among the targeted therapy drugs used.

  • 27 percent discussed targeted therapy at diagnosis
  • 9 percent used targeted therapy as their first treatment option

Palliative care and adjunct therapy

“At the age of 54, [I had my] entire left lung removed followed by 4 chemo treatments of Cisplatin and Taxotere. Taking a daily inhaler, and [I] barely use my emergency inhaler. I try to walk as much as possible. Seems to be the best respiratory therapy for my remaining lung.”

To improve quality of life and reduce treatment-related side effects, more than 75 percent of survey respondents shared that they have used palliative care, adjunct, or complementary therapy. The 3 most commonly used treatments were pain medicines, steroids, and anti-nausea drugs. Frequently used complementary therapy included:

  • Exercise
  • Acupuncture
  • Breathing exercises
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Healthy diet

Thoughts on treatment decisions

The majority of survey respondents indicated that they favored an early start to treatment. More than 90 percent of those treated started their treatment within 2 months of diagnosis. Under their current treatment plan, more than half of community members feel like their cancer is under control.

The 4th Annual Lung Cancer In America survey was held online from January through June 2020. The survey was completed by 804 people.

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