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Pulmonary Function May Stay Stable after Lung Cancer Treatme


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By Will Boggs, MD

NEW YORK DEC 20, 2005 (Reuters Health) - Pulmonary symptoms and function decline slightly after combined chemotherapy and chest radiotherapy for limited-stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and remain stable for five to 15 years, according to a report in the November issue of Chest.

"Patients with limited stage SCLC have potentially curable disease with only a small decrement in their lung function that remains stable over a long period of time," Dr. Janet N. Myers from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland told Reuters Health. "Physicians should not have a great deal of angst about treating these patients for fear of long term complications."

Dr. Myers and colleagues evaluated the long-term pulmonary effects, including pulmonary symptoms, pulmonary function testing results, and radiographic findings, in 23 patients that survived beyond five years after combined-modality therapy for SCLC.

Although 19 of the patients had pulmonary signs or symptoms at presentation, the authors report, nearly a third (seven patients) reported no pulmonary symptoms beyond five years.

Three patients continued to be asymptomatic at the last follow-up, the report indicates, including two patients who are alive 10 and 15 years after the start of treatment.

Among 11 patients who underwent spirometry beyond five years, the only significant change was a decline in DLCO from 71% of baseline to 56% at 1 to 2 years, the researchers note. Four of the 11 patients had improvements in pulmonary function.

"The results of our study of limited stage SCLC may be also applicable to patients with NSCLC with locally advanced Stage III disease treated with combined therapy," Dr. Myers concluded. "With these results, physicians may feel more secure about offering potentially curative therapy without fear of significant long term pulmonary complications."


Chest 2005;128:3261-3268.

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