Lung Cancer Treatment Options

The following is provided for your information. Your doctor will tailor a treatment plan that is right for you and may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

If you have lung cancer, your treatment choices may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapy. More than one kind of treatment may be used, depending on the stage of your cancer and other factors.

Types of Treatment for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

Surgery is usually recommended (often along with other treatments) for early stage lung cancers. If surgery can be done, it offers the best chance of curing NSCLC.

Several different operations can be used to treat (and maybe cure) non-small cell lung cancer:

  • Pneumonectomy: the entire lung is removed in this surgery
  • Lobectomy: a section (lobe) of the lung is removed in this surgery
  • Segmentectomy or wedge resection: part of a lobe is removed in this surgery

With any of these operations, lymph nodes are also removed to look for possible spread of the cancer.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset has helped pioneer a new kind of surgery for people with early stage lung cancer. It is called video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). A tiny camera can be placed through a small hole in the chest to help the surgeon see the tumor.

For people who can't have the usual surgery because of lung disease or other medical problems, or because the cancer is widespread, other types of surgery (for example, laser surgery) can be done to relieve symptoms.

Radiation therapy is treatment with high-energy rays (like X-rays) to kill or shrink cancer cells. The radiation may come from outside the body (external radiation) or from radioactive materials placed into or next to the tumor (brachytherapy). External radiation is the type most often used to treat lung cancer.

Radiation is sometimes used as the main treatment of lung cancer. It might be used for people who are not healthy enough to have surgery. For other patients, radiation might be used after surgery to kill small areas of cancer that can't be seen and removed during surgery.

The Steeplechase Cancer Center is one of only a handful of centers in the Northeast to offer a special kind of radiation, called Knife-Less Surgery, that can sometimes be used instead of surgery to treat tumors of the lung, brain, spine, liver and prostate.

At times, treatments other than surgery or radiation may be used to destroy lung cancer cells in certain places, including:

  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) - This method is being studied for small lung tumors that are near the outer edge the lungs, especially in people who can't have or don't want surgery. It uses high-energy radio waves to heat the tumor.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) - Photodynamic therapy is sometimes used to treat smaller lung cancers near airways when other treatments aren't a good choice, or to help open up airways blocked by tumors to help people breathe better.
  • Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy is treatment with anti-cancer drugs injected into a vein or taken by mouth. These drugs enter the bloodstream and go throughout the body, making this treatment useful for cancer that has spread to organs beyond the lung.

National Comprehensive Clinical Network Clinical Practice Guidelines

Source: American Cancer Society