Lung Cancer Treatment

Compassionate, Advanced Care for Lung Cancer

At the Cancer Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), our focus is on you. Our team of lung cancer experts will diagnose your cancer accurately and help you choose the treatment that’s right for you. RWJUH provides accurate lung cancer diagnosis as well as access to innovative lung cancer treatments, including clinical trials. Our doctors and nurses deliver expert medical care with compassion and support to help you deal with the uncertainties of having cancer.

Your Lung Cancer Care Team

Medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists and other professionals who specialize in lung cancer will work together to diagnosis your cancer and recommend the services and treatment options that will be best for you. Our doctors and nurses will teach you about your cancer and your treatment options, and help you choose the best treatment plan for you. Together with our social workers, dietitian and chaplains, they will help you cope with having cancer, so you can focus on getting better.

Expert Diagnosis

Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in getting the right treatment. Our doctors are experts at diagnosing and determining the extent of (called staging) lung cancer.

Tests to Diagnose Lung Cancer

Tests to diagnose lung cancer and determine its extent include the following.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests can show abnormal areas in the lung and whether the cancer has spread. Common imaging tests used in diagnosing lung cancer are: chest x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) combined with CT scans.


A biopsy, a procedure to collect cells from your body for analysis by a pathologist, is the only way to tell for sure if you have lung cancer. The pathologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing diseases) looks at the cells under a microscope to see if they are cancerous, and if so, how fast the cancer is likely to grow. Common ways to collect lung cells for biopsy are bronchoscopy and needle aspiration.


The doctor uses a bronchoscope, a thin, flexible tube with a light on the end, to examine the breathing passages of the lungs, and to collect cells for analysis. The bronchoscope is inserted into the mouth or nose, down the throat, and into the breathing passages. Patients receive mild anesthesia during a bronchoscopy.

Needle Aspiration

The doctor uses a needle biopsy, or fine needle aspiration, to examine areas of the lungs that can’t be seen with a bronchoscope and to remove cells for analysis. After numbing the skin, the doctor inserts a small needle through the chest into the tumor. The doctor sucks out (aspirates) cells with the needle for analysis.

Sputum Cytology

The doctor may ask the patient to cough up some phlegm for analysis.

Advanced Treatment Options

There are three main types of treatment for lung cancer:

Another type of treatment for lung cancer is targeted therapy. These treatments may be used alone or in different combinations. The best treatment(s) depends on the size and location of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread, and your overall health. Your doctors will recommend treatment options that are right for you. You can also consider participating in a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a research study to test a new treatment to find out whether it is safe, effective, and possibly better than the standard treatment. Clinical trials provide treatment options that are not available at most other hospitals, clinics, or doctor’s offices.

Learn more about clinical trials

Find a Clinical Trial in Lung Cancer

Use CINJ’s clinical trials search form to find clinical trials in lung cancer available at the Cancer Hospital at RWJUH.


Surgery to remove the lung tumor and the nearby lymph nodes in the chest is the most effective treatment for lung cancer that has not spread beyond the lung. The most common procedures are:

  • Wedge resection to remove a small part of the lung
  • Lobectomy to remove an entire section of the lung
  • Pneumonectomy to remove the entire lung

Our lung cancer surgeons are among the most experienced in New Jersey. Whenever possible, they use a minimally invasive procedure, video-assisted thoracic surgery.

Compared to traditional or “open” surgery, minimally invasive surgery typically results in:

  • Much less pain
  • Fewer side effects
  • Less scarring
  • A shorter recovery period
  • A faster return to normal activities.

Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery

This minimally invasive surgical technique eliminates the need to spread the ribs for lung cancer surgery. Instead, it requires only a one-inch incision and three ¼” to ½” incisions between the ribs. The surgeon inserts a miniature video camera into one of these small incisions to clearly see the area being operated on.

Video-assisted thoracic surgery can be more accurate than open surgery.

Our surgeons have been performing this procedure since the early 1990s.

Muscle-Sparing Surgery

If open surgery is necessary, our surgeons use a muscle-sparing procedure. Patients have less pain and more movement than with the open procedure.

[H4] Treatments Used with Surgery

After surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy may be used to eliminate any lung cancer cells that are still in the body and reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Some patients receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy before surgery.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, to destroy or damage cancer cells. The Cancer Hospital at RWJUH offers the latest types of radiation therapies for lung cancer.

If you need radiation therapy, a radiation oncologist who specializes in lung cancer will determine the best type for you. The goal will be to target your cancer and spare healthy tissue from unnecessary radiation. Radiation therapy is usually done on an outpatient basis.


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. If you need chemotherapy (usually called chemo), a medical oncologist who specializes in lung cancer will determine the best type of chemotherapy for you. Chemo is usually given intravenously, but it can also be given in pills. It is usually done on an outpatient basis.

Targeted Therapy

Medications that target faulty genes or proteins that contribute to cancer and work throughout the body are called targeted therapy. If you need targeted therapy, a medical oncologist who specializes in lung cancer will determine the best medication for you. Targeted therapy can be given intravenously, in pills, or by injection. It is usually done on an outpatient basis.

Patient Stories

  • “I see myself living a long and happy life."

    Read More
  • “We decided we should enjoy life. We’re lucky enough that we can.”

    Read More
  • With their complicated surgeries behind them, Patangi Amin and Ana Costa reflect on their experiences, sharing what has made them stronger.

    Patangi and Ana
    Read More

Patient Stories

  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial