Surgery is a very effective treatment for some patients with cancer spread to the lungs
Secondary breast cancer spread to the lungs represents a serious progression of the disease. It is categorised as stage 4 breast cancer. The usual treatment is with chemotherapy which usually produces significant and sometimes dramatic regression of the cancer in the lungs.
Friday 17th February 2012
Unfortunately however chemotherapy is not usually able to eliminate 100% of the cancer cells from the lungs and as a consequence the problem usually grows back. It is generally agreed that spread to the lungs from a primary breast cancer is treatable, but at the end of the day not curable.
A recent study has investigated surgery to remove the cancer nodules from the lungs. This involves removing small wedges of lung tissue for each cancer nodule rather than the surgery that is usually used for lung cancer, where a much a larger lobe of the lung is removed. This type of surgery is particularly successful if there are small numbers of cancer nodules on the CT scan. The published results show that patients who have this type of surgery with four or fewer cancer nodules have much better long term results than with chemotherapy alone. The figures show that after five years approximately half of women undergoing this type of surgery have no evidence of the cancer coming back. It may be that some of these women are completely cured, which is a dramatic improvement in a situation which was previously regarded as incurable.
At the Harley Street Clinic we currently recommend surgery as part of the treatment for women with small numbers of breast cancer nodules in their lungs. The surgery is carried out by one of the UK’s top thoracic surgeons and because only small segments of the lung are removed patients should not have problems with shortness of breath afterwards.