Lung Cancer Treatment Options

There are many different treatment options for lung cancer. Several are considered standard treatment options, while others are newer approaches that are becoming more readily available.

Lung cancer treatments are tailored to the individual patient's needs and wishes, so each patient needs to understand their options.

As with most cancer treatments, the choice of therapy is dictated mostly by the cancer type and the disease stage.

Treatment for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

There are several different types of treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Surgery

There are four main types of surgery used to treat lung cancer:

  1. Wedge resection: The surgery to remove a tumor and some of the normal tissue around it is called a wedge resection. If a slightly larger amount of tissue is taken, it is called a segmental resection.

  2. Lobectomy: Surgery to altogether remove one of the five lobes.

  3. Pneumonectomy: The surgery involving the removal of an entire lung is a pneumonectomy.

  4. Sleeve resection: A surgery to remove part of the bronchus is a sleeve resection.

Some patients are given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells once the visible cancer is removed. This process is called adjuvant therapy.

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Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or other radiation types to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy used to treat non-small cell lung cancer:

  • External radiation uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the area of the body with cancer.

  • Internal radiation uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters placed directly into or near the tumor site.

Radiation oncologists can treat tumors present in airways with radiation given directly to the tumor through an endoscope. 

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lung-cancer-chemotherapy-bannerChemotherapy uses drugs to stop cancer cells' growth, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. The way this cancer treatment is administered depends on the type and stage of the lung cancer.

When chemotherapy is injected into a vein or muscle or taken orally (by mouth), the drugs can enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body. This is called systemic chemotherapy.

When chemotherapy is placed directly into a body cavity such as the abdomen, an organ, or the cerebrospinal fluid, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas. This is called regional chemotherapy.

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Targeted Therapy

Some non-small cell lung cancer patients can be treated with a category of cancer treatments called targeted therapy. This type of treatment uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy. 

Before using targeted therapy the patient is tested for biomarkers that will tell the oncologist which targeted therapy would work best. 

If you do not test positive for a biomarker with an approved targeted therapy, other methods of lung cancer treatment are recommended. Find out more about the types of gene mutations that targeted therapy is approved to treat for NSCLC patients.

Learn More About Targeted Therapy

Immunotherapy for Lung Cancer

Immunotherapy is a type of biologic therapy. Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that aids your immune system in fighting cancer.

There are a variety of immunotherapy types, each working in its unique way. Some immunotherapy treatments are designed to help the immune system slow or even stop cancerous cells' growth. Others support the patient's immune system in destroying cancer cells and preventing lung cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

There are currently two types of immunotherapy used to treat lung cancer - immune checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive T-cell therapy.

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Laser Therapy for Lung Cancer

Laser therapy is a type of lung cancer treatment that uses laser beams to kill lung cancer cells. Because there are so many vital organs and sensitive tissue surrounding the lungs, the precision of laser therapy can be an ideal treatment for some patients.

Laser therapy can be used alone, but most often it is combined with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Learn More About Laser Therapy

Watchful Waiting

Watchful waiting closely monitors a patient's condition without giving any treatment until signs or symptoms appear or change. Your oncologist may decide on watchful waiting in certain rare cases of non-small cell lung cancer.

New Types of Lung Cancer Treatment Are Being Tested in Clinical Trials


Chemoprevention uses drugs, vitamins, or other substances to reduce the risk of cancer or reduce the risk cancer will recur (come back). For lung cancer, chemoprevention minimizes the chance that a new tumor will form in the lung.


Radiosensitizers are materials that make tumor cells easier to kill with radiation therapy. Researchers are studying the combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy administered with radiosensitizers to treat non-small cell lung cancer.

New Combinations

New combinations of lung cancer treatments are also being studied in clinical trials to determine if additional treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment. For some patients, taking part in a lung cancer clinical trial may be the best treatment choice.

Treatment for Small Cell Lung Cancer

The treatment options in small cell lung cancer are less complex than non-small cell lung cancer. This is mostly because studies have repeatedly shown that treatment outcomes are not affected by the detailed staging of SCLC. In other words, placing SCLC in four different stages does not influence treatment choices or outcomes to any appreciable degree. Therefore, treatment of small cell lung cancer is based mainly on two different stages, limited and extensive.

Stage: Limited

Standard Treatment
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy
    (single drug or combination)
Alternative Therapy
  • Surgery

Stage: Extensive

Standard Treatment
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy
    (combination of drugs)
Alternative Therapy
  • Radiation Therapy to the Brain Prophylactically
  • Surgery (palliative)

Chemotherapy is a critical part of treatment for SCLC patients. Depending on the extent of the disease either one or a combination of chemotherapy drugs may be used during treatment.

Small cell lung cancer is also very sensitive to radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is often used to treat SCLC, prevent its spread to the brain, or relieve symptoms.

For some patients, treatment may also include surgery; however, a small number of SCLC patients will benefit from surgery.

While immunotherapies have been developed for certain types of SCLC, they have not become as highly adopted as they have for NSCLC. There are still clinical research studies being conducted for additional immunotherapies for SCLC.

If you, or someone you know, has lung cancer and you would like to know if they qualify for additional compensation, please call 1-800-998-9729 for a FREE consultation.