How is lung cancer treated?

Jay M. Lee, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Early-stage lung cancers are generally managed with surgery to remove the tumor, surrounding lung tissue and lymph nodes. However, patients who cannot have surgery or who prefer not to have surgery may be treated with focused radiation therapy or ablation with or without chemotherapy. Stage III lung cancers usually require multimodality therapy that includes chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. When the cancer has spread outside of the chest (stage IV), chemotherapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy is given generally without surgery. Finally, participation in research studies of new cancer treatments (clinical trials) may be considered by some patients.
Graham M. Bundy, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Treatment for lung cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Surgery for lung cancer involves removing the tumor and nearby tissue. Lymph nodes may also need to be removed. The type of surgery depends on the location of the tumor. Types of surgery for lung cancer include:
  • segmental or wedge resection: removal of only a small part of the lung
  • lobectomy: removal of an entire lobe of the lung
  • pneumonectomy: removal of an entire lung
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This may also be used to relieve symptoms, such as shortness of breath. External radiation is usually used to treat lung cancer. With this treatment, radiation is directed at the tumor from a source outside of the body.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This may be given in many forms, including pill, injection and administration via catheter. Chemotherapy is often used to kill lung cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body.
There are generally three main treatment options for lung cancer: surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Usually, the first step is to determine whether a person with lung cancer can have surgery. A person might not be a candidate for surgery if they are too ill (for example, they have a very bad heart) or if the tumor is too big to be removed.

If they have surgery, then depending on the results, a patient might have chemotherapy or radiation therapy in addition to the surgery to help with the cure.

If surgery is not possible, then typically a combination of radiation and chemotherapy is used to treat the disease.

If the tumor has spread outside of the lung (Stage 4 or metastatic disease), then usually chemotherapy is the main treatment option.
Laki J. Rousou, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
To treat lung cancer, surgically removing the affected lobe stops the cancer for many people. New minimally invasive techniques help make this approach more successful than ever. Small incisions and instruments are used to avoid disturbing the ribcage during surgery. People recover more quickly, there is less pain, and the results are sometimes better than they were with traditional open procedures.

This new procedure is appropriate for some people who are too frail to undergo traditional surgery, and the new technique allows for a faster recovery so people can receive additional treatments, such as chemotherapy, earlier. People who have had minimally invasive surgery recover lung function sooner and require fewer blood replacement products. Other treatment options include partial lobe removal and a targeted therapy called stereotactic radiosurgery for those who cannot tolerate removal of the entire lobe.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.
George A. Knaysi, MD
Surgery
There are several treatment options available for lung cancer, with the goal being to eliminate the cancer and/or control the presenting symptoms.

Surgery involves removing the tumor and nearby tissue. Lymph nodes may also need to be removed. The type of surgery depends on the location of the tumor, such as:
  • Segmental or wedge resection: removal of only a small part of the lung
  • Lobectomy: removal of an entire lobe of the lung
  • Pneumonectomy: removal of an entire lung
  • Radiation Therapy: the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This may also be used to relieve symptoms, such as shortness of breath. External radiation is usually used to treat lung cancer. With this treatment, radiation is directed at the tumor from a source outside of the body.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This may be given in many forms, including pill, injection and administration via catheter. Chemotherapy is often used to kill lung cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body.

This content originally appeared on the HCA Virginia Physicians blog.
There are three different treatments commonly used for lung cancer: surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery and radiotherapy are "local" therapies, which are therapies directed at disease that is visible to the doctors on an x-ray or CT scan. Chemotherapy is a "systemic" therapy because the patient takes medicines orally or receives them intravenously (through an IV), and they circulate throughout one's system. In theory, they can attack cancer cells anywhere in the body. The art of treating lung cancer patients involves assessing the stage of cancer (whether and where it has spread) and designing a treatment regimen which may involve one, two or all three of these major types of therapy. The treatments are sometimes given at the same time and sometimes in sequence, depending on which has been shown to provide the best chance for cure.

In situations where cure is unlikely, these types of treatment are used alone or in combination to relieve symptoms and to extend survival as much as possible. Because the care of lung cancer patients involves such different treatment modalities, it is often appropriate for these patients to undergo evaluation by experts in each area including surgery (thoracic surgeons), chemotherapy (medical oncologists) and radiotherapy (radiation oncologists).
Penn Medicine
Administration
Lung cancer is commonly treated with radiation therapy. Radiation may be recommended before surgery to shrink a tumor, making it easier for the doctor to remove. Radiation may be used after surgery if there are worrisome risk factors that make it likely for a tumor to come back in the chest. Sometimes radiation is used instead of surgery if a surgery is felt to be too dangerous or if a tumor is too extensive to be removed with surgery.
Neal Chuang, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
The treatment for lung cancer is determined by how advanced the cancer is. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan helps determine the stage of the lung cancer and helps doctors decide whether the person is a candidate for surgery to remove the cancer. If the person isn’t a candidate for surgery, alternative options include radiation therapy and chemotherapy. If the cancer is advanced (stage IV), then chemotherapy or perhaps some of the new therapies that have become available over the past five to 10 years, such as targeted and immune therapy, would be used.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.
Treatment for lung cancer is different for each affected person and is based on the patient's age, health status, and stage/type of cancer. Treatment regimens might include medications (including chemotherapy) and radiation to kill abnormal cells, surgery to remove tumors, or a combination of these. Supportive care, such as pain management, can be used to keep you as comfortable as possible if you decide you don't want treatment.
Good In Bed
Internal Medicine
There are several different types of lung cancer. Treatment is based on the stage at which it is found. Non-small cell cancer is more common and is often treated with surgery in earlier stages. Small-cell lung cancer is a more aggressive cancer, and is typically treated with a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
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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.