How helpful is chemotherapy plus radiation therapy for lung cancer?

Dr Camille

There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung Cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). NSCLC accounts for 75 80 percent of all lung cancer diagnosis, and of this 30 to 40 percent are considered "locally advanced" comprising both stages IIIA and IIIB. As it is with almost all cancers, treatment decisions are based on the stage of the cancer (please discuss the stage of the cancer with your doctor or visit for further explanation). Typically, for early stage NSCLC (I and II), surgery is the cornerstone of treatment. If the disease is more advance, (meaning surgery is unlikely to remove all the disease), the "standard of care" is radiation plus chemotherapy.

However, the decision is very complex and a multidisciplinary team (surgeons, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist) will discuss the best approach depending on the tumors size, location, patient's well-being and ability to tolerate treatment, etc., chemotherapy plus radiation may be the best approach in shrinking the tumor before surgery is attempted, or no surgery but treating with combined chemotherapy plus radiation alone (definitive treatment), or using combine treatment after surgery, if margins are positive (small amount of tumor left behind). Many studies have shown that adding chemotherapy to radiation gives a survival advantage versus treatment with radiation therapy alone. Additionally, concurrent chemotherapy plus radiation (giving both at the same time) was shown to be better than sequential treatment. Be sure to discuss with your doctor the side effects from these treatments.

Chemotherapy and radiation can be very helpful for certain types and stages of lung cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.