Lung Cancer Terms I Have Learned

In my past, I worked for a big box retail electronics store, and they were famous for having everything abbreviated and we were often quizzed on it too! I have found this to also be the case in other areas of my life.

When I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2014, I did not know much about lung cancer or even cancer in general and I have learned quite a few terms and abbreviations since being diagnosed.

Lung cancer types

I think the most important ones once given a lung cancer diagnosis are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). These are the two main types of lung cancer.

There is also large cell lung cancer, and you can also be diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor in the lung.

Treatment options

There are different types of treatments. I always say that I have had every treatment option except immunotherapy.

Many lung cancer patients start out with chemotherapy. We have come so far with treatments that even more people are starting with pill chemotherapy or a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). This is the treatment that I am currently on. Within the last few years immunotherapy has been widely used as well.

Other ways to reduce the size of a tumor include radiation or surgery. I have had multiple rounds of radiation to my lung, c-spine, and neck. There are even different types of radiation. I have also had a wedge resection performed via video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). This procedure left me with three very tiny scars.

What are biomarkers?

For non-small lung cancer there are biomarkers that drive cancer. When I was diagnosed, I again did not know what this meant. My tumor was tested and found to have an EGFR (epidural growth factor receptor) mutation.

There are a few others that I have come across, ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase), RET, and ROS1. It is strongly encouraged that you have either a blood biopsy or a tissue biopsy to check for drivers that may be driving your cancer when first diagnosed as well as every time there is progression.

Understanding lung cancer progression

The next term, one I just mentioned, is progression. I had a very vague idea of how cancer worked after a few months of being diagnosed. When I failed to understand was that the goal was to be on a treatment long term. I had a lot of progression in the beginning. I just thought that was how it was. Progression is when a treatment fails, and cancer starts growing again. You can also have oligo-progression where it only spreads in one spot.

Learning about clinical trials

Finally, I learned what a clinical trial was. I will not go into detail about everything involved in a clinical trial because that could be a whole post itself. I learned that when drug manufacturers are testing out new drugs, they have clinical trials to test things such as dosage, side effects, and efficacy. I have participated in two clinical trials.

These are just a very few terms that I have learned since being diagnosed with lung cancer. I will write a few parts to this!

Let me know in the comments something that you learned after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

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