Treatment for both non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) may include the following:
- Surgery. This may involve removing the cancer, the affected lobe of lung, or the entire lung.
- Radiation. Reference Radiation Opens New Window is often used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy or both. For more information, see Reference Other Treatment.
- Chemotherapy. Reference Chemotherapy Opens New Window can help control the growth and spread of the cancer, but it is a cure in only a small number of people. For more information, see Reference Medications.
- Laser therapy. Reference Laser therapy Opens New Window uses a highly focused beam of light to kill cancer cells.
Other treatments for NSCLC include:
- Targeted therapy. Reference Targeted therapy Opens New Window is the use of medicines such as Reference tyrosine kinase inhibitors or Reference monoclonal antibodies Opens New Window to block cancer growth.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT). Reference PDT Opens New Window uses medicine and a special light to treat cancer.
- Cryosurgery. Reference Cryosurgery Opens New Window may be used to freeze and destroy lung tumors.
- Electrocautery. Electrocautery is the use of a low-voltage electrical charge to destroy tumors.
- Watchful waiting. Reference Watchful waiting Opens New Window means being watched closely by your doctor but not having treatment until you show symptoms or a change of some kind. It is only used in rare cases.
Your doctor may check for Reference tumor markers (biomarkers) Opens New Window, such as EGFR, ALK, and KRAS, that are caused by gene changes (mutations) in cancer cells. This can help your doctor choose the treatment that will work best for you.
Other treatments for SCLC include:
- Endoscopic stent placement. This is done to open a blocked airway so you can breathe more easily. A flexible lighted viewing instrument (endoscope) is used to place a small hollow tube (a stent) in your bronchial tubes if a tumor is making it hard for you to breathe.
Some treatments can cause side effects. Home treatment measures may help.
Your quality of life is critical when you are considering your treatment choices. Discuss your personal preferences with your Reference oncologist Opens New Window when he or she recommends treatment.
Additional information about lung cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung.
Dealing with your emotions
If you have been recently diagnosed with lung cancer, you may feel denial, anger, and grief. Reactions vary from person to person. Talk to your doctor about steps you can take to help with your Reference emotional reactions.
If you are having a hard time moving forward with your life, talk with your doctor. Your cancer treatment center may offer counseling services. You may also contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society to help you find a support group.
Having cancer can change your life in many ways. For support in managing these changes, see the topic Reference Getting Support When You Have Cancer.
After initial treatment for lung cancer, it is important to receive follow-up care.
- Your Reference oncologist Opens New Window will schedule regular checkups, usually every 3 to 4 months, depending on the therapies used in initial treatment. After 2 to 3 years, regular checkups will occur less often but more than just once a year, depending on your medical history.
- Checkups may include a physical exam, blood tests, chest X-rays, CT scans, or other laboratory tests recommended by your oncologist.
You may be interested in participating in research studies called Reference clinical trials. Clinical trials are based on the most up-to-date information and are designed to find better ways to treat people who have cancer.
People who do not want standard treatments or are not cured by standard treatments may want to participate in clinical trials. These are ongoing in most parts of the United States and in some other countries around the world for all stages of lung cancer.
Cancer treatment has two main goals: curing cancer and making your quality of life as good as possible. Palliative care can improve your quality of life by helping you manage your symptoms. It also can help you with other concerns that you may have when you're living with a serious illness.
One study of people with non-small cell lung cancer who started palliative care when they were diagnosed with lung cancer found that they not only felt better but also lived a little longer than the people who didn't have palliative care.Reference 8
For some people who have advanced cancer, a time comes when treatment to cure cancer no longer seems like a good choice. This can be because the side effects, time, and costs of treatment are greater than the promise of cure or relief. But this isn't the end of treatment. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for hospice care.
It can be hard to decide when to stop treatment to prolong your life and shift the focus to end-of-life care.
To learn about supportive care, see:
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology