Lung Cancer - Treatment Overview
long-term outcome (prognosis) for
lung cancer that does not respond to treatment as
hoped or that comes back after being treated is poor, and treatment focuses on
managing your pain and improving your quality of life (palliative care).
Treatment to help control your symptoms (such as
pain, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, and weakness) may include:
- Radiation therapy. This may be done to shrink cancers
that make swallowing or breathing difficult or that are causing pain.
- Chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy.
- Surgery, if your cancer has spread to your brain.
- Laser surgery.
- Radiation applied directly to the cancer during surgery.
Other treatments being studied for lung cancer include
radiofrequency ablation and cryosurgery. Each of these is
a way of trying to destroy the cancer cells without major surgery. These
treatments may be useful for people who are not able to have surgery either
because they are in poor health or because their cancer is too
Additional treatment measures
- Oxygen therapy may relieve your shortness of breath.
It is usually used at the end stage of the disease, but it may also be used for
pneumonia or other treatable conditions.
- Thoracentesis is used to remove fluid
from around your lungs (pleural effusion). A large amount of fluid may cause pain and shortness of
- Pleurodesis is used to prevent fluid buildup around your
lungs. Pleurodesis is a procedure that is intended to cause inflammation of the
lining around your lungs. The irritated tissue reacts by producing scar tissue,
which causes the two layers of the lung lining to stick together. This removes
the space where fluid can build up around your lungs. Pleurodesis is commonly
used to treat fluid buildup around your lungs that returns after repeated
- Small tubes (pleural catheters) to drain fluid from around
the lungs are used to relieve fluid buildup (pleural effusion).
- Treatments that burn (cauterize) selected areas of blocked
airways or that place stents-small, coiled, wire-mesh tubes that can be
inserted into a blocked airway and expanded to hold it open-are also becoming
- Pain medicines can be taken regularly. These may include
prescribed narcotic medicines, such as codeine, or medicines you can buy
without a prescription, such as aspirin and
People sometimes use complementary therapies along with medical treatment to help relieve symptoms and side effects of cancer treatments. Some of the complementary therapies that may be helpful include:
For people with lung cancer, studies have shown that mind-body treatments like those mentioned above may help you feel better and cope better with treatment. These treatments also may reduce chronic low back pain, joint pain, headaches, and pain from treatments. Acupuncture may also help with nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.9