Possible treatments other than surgery

While 88 years old and active, some lung nodules indicate a slow cancer progression. Dr. thinks I could skip any treatment due to age. However, I do not want the cancer to metastasize. Interested in use of mushrooms, etc. Did have Stage 1 breast cancer in the early 90s--surgery plus radiation.

My healthcare provider has been monitoring some nodules since 2016--GGO, and now a sub-solid nodule that has increased 6 mm in 2 years from 1.6 cm to 2.1 cm. Dr. says I'm too old for surgery (88 yrs. old) and wants me to decide if I want to go through chemo or do nothing since the cancer is slow growing. Afterall, at my age, I could die from other causes, anyway! No idea what type of lung cancer and won't have a needle biopsy unless going for chemo. No mention of possible immunotherapy or other therapies. My question is: What are the options of treatment for someone my age?

Marian Baldwin

JanineT GRACE …
Posts: 634
GRACE Community Outreach Team

Hi Oaktowngrrl,  Welcome to Grace.  I'm so sorry you're going through this.


 Finding a reputable dedicated thoracic surgeon for lung surgery might be difficult, as it is a complex and risky procedure, even for young, healthy individuals. In cases where surgery is not feasible, Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) is sometimes considered as a curative treatment. Given the extremely slow growth of 6 mm over two years, a "watch and wait" approach with regular CT scans every 3 to 6 months may be most appropriate, especially if the growth rate remains stable.


Before any anti-cancer treatment, a biopsy is typically performed to confirm the diagnosis. This step is crucial, as scans can mislead, showing abnormalities that may not be cancerous. Given the potential toxicity and risks associated with cancer treatments, it is essential to have a precise diagnosis before proceeding.


In the event that a biopsy reveals lung cancer with a targetable mutation, you may be prescribed an anti-cancer pill. These medications are usually less toxic than traditional chemotherapy infusions and can be taken at home, reducing the need for frequent visits to the cancer center.  These medications do have their own set of side effects that can also become unmanageable. 


Single-agent chemo is also an option for more fragile people leaving out the more toxic platinum-based agents. Also, immunotherapy may be an option for single-agent treatment. 


Considering an active lifestyle and good overall health at the age of 88, it's important to maintain that delicate balance.  Aggressive treatments may impact your well-being, and decisions should be made carefully, taking into account your individual circumstances. 


Mushrooms aren't used to treat cancer.  Many believe they are helpful in prevention.  And studies using psilocybin suggest good psychological outcomes in people facing terminal illnesses. 


Keep us posted and don't hesitate to ask when questions arise. 

Take care,


I joined GRACE as a caregiver for my husband who had a Pancoast tumor, NSCLC stage III in 2009. He had curative chemo/rads then it was believed he had a recurrence in the spine/oligometastasis that was radiated. He's 10 years out from treatment.