Lung cancer patients in Kent area can now benefit from Immunotherapy to treat their cancer.
For decades, oncologists used to treat patients with advanced lung cancer with chemotherapy mainly and sometimes with palliative radiotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs work by damaging any rapidly-dividing cells like cancer cells. However, they cannot differentiate between the bad cells (like cancer cells) and the good cells (like blood-producing cells or bone marrow). Therefore, they cause many side effects like infections, anaemia, bleeding, diarrhoea, mouth ulcers, hair loss and loss of taste sensation.
What is immunotherapy:
Immunotherapy is a new and effective way to treat lung cancer by enhancing our own body’s immune system to discover and kill cancer cells more effectively than chemotherapy.
Who is it for:
It is suitable for patients who have advanced, metastatic or stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer who have a certain protein on their cancer cells called PDL-1. Although immunotherapy is not a curative treatment, it prolongs patients’ life significantly compared to traditional chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy side effects:
Even though immunotherapy drugs are usually less harmful than chemotherapy, they do have their own side effects. The most common side effects are skin reactions at the needle site causing pain, swelling, and rash. Additionally, they may also cause flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, muscle or joint aches, fatigue, and headache. Moreover, side effects might include swelling and weight gain, heart palpitations, and diarrhoea.
Any serious side effects:
Immunotherapy work by removing the brakes on our immune system. Therefore, our immune system may start attacking other parts of our body. As a result, this can cause serious or even life-threatening problems in the lungs, intestines, liver, hormone-making glands, or kidneys. It’s very important to report any new side effects to your healthcare team promptly. If serious side effects do occur, treatment may be stopped and you may get high doses of corticosteroids to suppress your immune system.
There are two main drugs available for patients with Lung cancer:
These drugs are given as an intravenous (IV) infusion every 2 or 3 weeks.
In Kent area, patients have access to immunotherapy drugs in any dedicated NHS chemotherapy unit like Charles Dickens Day Unit in Maidstone Hospital or privately in Genesis Care in West Malling, Maidstone.