Lung Cancer Treatment & Survival Rates

Posted on 2012-10-24 00:00:34

Remember the procedures Frank went through before he finally had his lung removed? Frank's story can be found on this link.We were able to get the cost implications from him and we'll use that as a template to show you how your good health is an investment worth making: For complete treatment, Frank saw the initial two general practitioners. He then saw a pulmonologist (chest specialist), who diagnosed the cancer, with the help of a pathologist, another specialist doctor who looks at the biopsy cells under the microscope. He was referred to an oncologist (cancer specialist) who managed the complicated treatment with chemotherapy. All through this, the pulmonologist was keeping an eye on progress. When the cancer was small enough, he was referred to a cardiothoracic surgeon (specialist chest surgeon) who removed the tumor. The oncologist shall manage the lifetime follow. It was a very expensive treatment. In summary, the approximate direct costs were as seen below:
Process/Procedure Approximate Costs (In Ksh.)
Initial doctors and tests 4000
Pulmonologist (3000 per visit x approx. 2 visits) 6000
Oncologist (3000 per visit x approx. 2 visits) 6000
Cardiothoracic surgeon (3000 per visit x approx. 2 visits) 6000
Initial diagnostic tests (including biopsy) 70,000
Chemotherapy (Generic drugs- not original thus cheaper) 800,000
Cardiothoracic surgery 500,000
Hospital stay (14 days x 120,000 per day- at HDU) 1,680,000
Follow up (approx. cost per year for 1 review) 30,000
Approximate Total Costs 3,102,000
Though these costs are at one of the leading private institutions in the country, even at the alternative hospitals, it can be appreciated that cancer treatment is an expensive affair. Frank’s was very fortunate that his international insurance from his employer covered 100 % of the costs. Could the cancer have spread? Yes, there is always the possibility that the cancer had already spread (to liver, bones or even brain), and that the parts that have spread are too small to notice. This is especially possible because of spread through special vessels called lymph nodes. This is one of the main reasons chemotherapy is given, even after surgery. Follow up is also essential in managing cancer spread or its possibility. In Frank’s case, all the indicators were encouraging that it had been caught early and had not spread. What does follow up for lung cancer entail? The possibility of recurrence is a major concern, and incidences vary from 5 to 70 % depending on the type of cancer. Follow up will often depend on the specifics of each patient. A sample schedule is:
  • History, physical examination and chest CT-scan 2 to 3 times every year for the first two years
  • History, physical examination and chest CT-scan once a year thereafter
  • The other tests, such as blood may be used as requires
Repeated CT scan is a concern as the radiation, when given repeatedly over time, has also been known to induce cancer. The whole process sounds complicated. How long was he on treatment? Frank was away from work and on treatment for almost 8 months. Follow up could go on for an indefinite period. If cancer recurs or is discovered to have spread, treatment would need to be started again.