Background: Disease-free survival after surgical resection of lung carcinoma in situ has been reported as over 90%. After resection of stage IA non-small cell lung cancer, survival at 5 years is approximately 60% to 70%. If endoscopic or bronchoscopic treatments of early-stage lung cancer can provide similar disease-free survival with less perioperative mortality, morbidity, and cost, then they may be alternative front-line therapies. Methods: The authors review early-stage lung cancer detection by fluorescence bronchoscopy and the potential treatment of this disease by endoscopic techniques (photodynamic therapy, brachytherapy, Nd:YAG laser, electrocautery, and cryotherapy). Results: Several reports have noted improved outcomes using endoscopic therapies for early-stage lung cancer, but insufficient data preclude firm conclusions regarding the role of fluorescence bronchoscopy, endobronchial brachytherapy, or electrocautery in early-stage lung cancer. Other than resection, photodynamic therapy may represent the best approach at this time. The principal indication for laser bronchoscopy is palliation of central airway obstruction. Conclusions: The identification of early-stage lung cancer provides no advantage if we have little to offer the patient short of traditional therapy. The value of newer treatment techniques and methods requires verification.
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