MONDAY, July 27, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Radiotherapy plus chemotherapy, with or without surgery, works well for people with stage 3A non-small-cell lung cancer, a new study has found.
Stage 3A is declared when surgery cannot cure the disease because it has spread to the lymph nodes in the center of the chest.
Non-small-cell lung cancer accounts for about 80 percent of lung cancers, and smoking tobacco is the most common cause of lung cancer. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the risk of lung cancer is linked to the earlier in life a person starts smoking, the more often a person smokes and the more years a person smokes.
For the study, a research team led by Dr. Kathy Albain of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill., compared 202 patients who underwent chemotherapy plus radiotherapy followed by surgery with 194 patients who underwent chemotherapy plus radiotherapy alone, which is the current standard for these patients.
The researchers looked at the overall survival rates of the 396 patients after five years to draw their conclusions. They found no statistically significant difference in overall survival.
In an exploratory analysis, the researchers found that overall survival did improve for patients who only had part of a lung removed (lobectomy) rather than an entire lung. They speculated that removing an entire lung left patients more likely to die from acute respiratory distress syndrome or other respiratory diseases.
"On the basis of the findings of our study, patients should be counseled about the risks and potential benefits of definitive chemotherapy plus radiotherapy with, and without, a surgical resection (preferably by lobectomy)," the authors concluded.
The findings appear in the July 27 online edition of The Lancet.
Learn more about non-small-cell lung cancer from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.