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Lung Cancer - Treatment Overview

Treatment for both non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) may include the following:

Other treatments for NSCLC include:

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If a routine physical exam reveals swollen lymph nodes above the collarbone, a mass in the abdomen, weak breathing, abnormal sounds in the lungs, dullness when the chest is tapped, abnormalities of the pupils, weakness or swollen veins in one of the arms, or even changes in the fingernails, a doctor may suspect a lung tumor. Some lung cancers produce abnormally high blood levels of certain hormones or substances, such as calcium. If a person shows such evidence and no other cause is apparent, a doctor...

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  • Targeted therapy.Targeted therapy is the use of medicines such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors or monoclonal antibodies to block cancer growth.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT).PDT uses medicine and a special light to treat cancer.
  • Cryosurgery.Cryosurgery may be used to freeze and destroy lung tumors.
  • Electrocautery. Electrocautery is the use of a low-voltage electrical charge to destroy tumors.
  • Watchful waiting.Watchful waiting means being watched closely by your doctor but not having treatment until you show symptoms or a change of some kind. It is only used in rare cases.

Your doctor may check for tumor markers (biomarkers), such as EGFR, ALK, and KRAS, that are caused by gene changes (mutations) in cancer cells. This can help your doctor choose the treatment that will work best for you.

Other treatments for SCLC include:

  • Endoscopic stent placement. This is done to open a blocked airway so you can breathe more easily. A flexible lighted viewing instrument (endoscope) is used to place a small hollow tube (a stent) in your bronchial tubes if a tumor is making it hard for you to breathe.

The kind of treatment and the long-term outcome of lung cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer and also on your age and your overall health.

Some treatments can cause side effects. Home treatment measures may help.

Your quality of life is critical when you are considering your treatment choices. Discuss your personal preferences with your oncologist when he or she recommends treatment.

Additional information about lung cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute at

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