Background: The majority of patients with non-small cell lung cancer have inoperable disease that is already too advanced for radical treatment at the initial diagnosis. But patients who suffer from symptoms caused by intrathoracic tumor often require palliative treatment to relieve the symptoms. We investigated, retrospectively, the outcome of short-course palliative radiotherapy for airway stenosis in non-small cell lung cancer.
Methods: Between October 1997 and June 2001, 24 patients were treated by palliative radiotherapy to relieve airway stenosis caused by intrathoracic tumor. The short-course radiotherapy consisted of a total dose of 30 Gy given in ten fractions over 2 weeks. The effect of treatment was assessed by improvement of radiographic findings. The duration of palliation and this duration as a percentage of the remaining survival time were also investigated.
Results: Palliation of airway stenosis was achieved in 13 (54.2%) patients. The time until palliation was achieved ranged from 11 to 44 days (median, 24 days). The duration of palliation ranged from 44 to 351 days (median, 116 days). In the palliated patients, the median survival time was 192 days, while that of the non-responders was 43 days. The duration of palliation as a percentage of the remaining lifetime ranged from 41% to 96% (median, 66%).
Conclusions: Short-course palliative radiotherapy of 30 Gy in ten fractions over 2 weeks achieved good palliation without severe acute toxicities in over half of the patients. It is suggested that, in the palliated patient, the airway can be, potentially, maintained over the long term.