Lung Cancer - Treatment Overview
lung cancer depends on the
stage of your cancer and may include surgery to remove
radiation therapy, or medications (chemotherapy). Treatment for non-small cell lung
cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) may be different.
Treatment for lung cancer may include one or more of the following
- Surgery (taking out the cancer). Surgery may involve removing the cancer (wedge resection),
removing the affected lobe of lung (lobectomy), or removing the entire lung
- Radiation therapy (using high-dose X-rays to kill cancer cells). Radiation therapy is often used in combination with surgery or
chemotherapy or both.
- Chemotherapy (using medicines to kill cancer cells). Chemotherapy can help control the growth and spread of the
cancer, but it is a cure in only a small number of people.
- Targeted therapy. Targeted therapies use medicines or antibodies to block growth
factors that allow some cancers to grow. At this time, targeted therapies are
used for advanced stages of lung cancer.
If you smoke and have lung cancer, quitting smoking
will make your treatment more effective and may help you live longer. Smoking
delays healing after surgery, so you may have a better recovery from lung
cancer surgery if you have quit smoking. People with early-stage lung cancer
who continue to smoke during radiation therapy have been shown to have shorter
survival times that those who do not smoke.7 It may
also make chemotherapy less effective. The nicotine in tobacco seems to help
the cancer cells and their blood supply multiply while also protecting the
cancer cells from destruction.8 For information and
help quitting smoking, see the topic
The kind of treatment and the
long-term outcome of
lung cancer depends on the
type and stage of the cancer. Your age, overall health, and quality of life
must also be considered. Many people with lung cancer are diagnosed with the
disease when the cancer is already in an advanced stage. Fewer lung cancers are
diagnosed in the early stages when lung cancer is likely to be cured by
Non-small cell lung cancer grows
and spreads more slowly. Lung surgery (thoracotomy) is usually the standard
treatment for non-small cell stage I to stage IIIA cancers.
Treatment for non-small cell lung cancer also
- Checking for biomarkers, such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and K-RAS. This can help your doctor choose the treatment that will work best for you.
- Treatment with a combination of the three therapies.
- Lung surgery (thoracotomy) takes out the
- Radiation therapy sometimes follows surgery for stages
IIA, IIB, and IIIA (with lymph node involvement) and may reduce the risk of
cancer returning in the chest.
- Chemotherapy may be used to treat more advanced stages
(stages III and IV). Chemotherapy may also be used after surgery for early
stages such as IB, IIA, IIB, and IIIA to reduce the risk of cancer