Forty percent of patients with newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have stage IV disease. Treatment goals are to prolong survival and control disease-related symptoms. Treatment options include cytotoxic chemotherapy and targeted agents. Factors influencing treatment selection include comorbidity, performance status (PS), histology, and molecular genetic features of the cancer. Radiation therapy and surgery are generally used in selective cases for symptom palliation.
A portion of a lobe, a full lobe, or an entire lung may be removed. The extent of removal depends on the size of the tumor, its location, and how far it has spread.
A technique called cryosurgery is sometimes used for NSCLC. In cryosurgery, the tumor is frozen, which destroys it. This treatment is mainly reserved for patients who can’t tolerate traditional surgery.
Despite complete surgical removal, a large proportion of patients with early stage cancer have recurrence of cancer.
Surgery is not widely used in SCLC. Because SCLC spreads widely and rapidly through the body, removing it all by surgery is usually impossible.
An operation for lung cancer is major surgery. Many people experience pain, weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath after surgery. Most have problems moving around, coughing, and breathing deeply. The recovery period can be several weeks or even months.
Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a less invasive type of surgery that is used when possible for the treatment of early stage NSCLC. Recovery from this type of surgery is usually quicker than with traditional surgery.