The statistics are saddening. 41% of people with non-small cell lung cancer are diagnosed when they are already at stage 4 of the disease. Stage 4 meaning that their cancer has spread to regions beyond the lungs.
For many of these people there are multiple metastases (areas of spread,) but in some people only a single spot of spread (a single metastasis) is present. When this is the case, does surgery to remove the single metastasis improve survival?
Researchers decided to look at all research on this question to date. They found that, in every study, survival was indeed improved by operating on a single metastasis.
The benefit varied a bit. It appears that people with a "metachronous"metastasis, that is a metastasis that occurs at a different time than diagnosis, had a slightly better prognosis than those who had a "synchronous" metastasis, that is, a metastasis diagnosed at the same time or within 3 months of the initial diagnosis. But in both groups, survival was improved.
Other recent studies, some that I'll share in the near future, suggest that people with more than one metastasis from lung cancer may also benefit from treatment of the metastatic disease.
As far as surgical vs non-surgical methods of treating metastases, the researchers were unable to find any studies comparing results.
The improved survival associated with treating metastases from lung cancer is an exciting development. It wasn't long ago that metastases of any form or any number were considered untreatable. We have a long way to go, but seeing improvements, even if small for lung cancer brings hope of more advances in the near future.
- Where Does Lung Cancer Spread?
- Management of Lung Cancer Spread to the Brain
- Lung Cancer Spread to Bone
- Lung Cancer Spread to the Liver
Karagkiouzis, G. et al. Solitary metastasectomy in non-small cell lung cancer. Journal of B.U.ON. 2012. 17(4):712-718.