Lung cancer treatment
Treatment for lung cancer will depend on the type of lung cancer you have, the stage of the cancer, how well you can breathe (your lung function) and your general health. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) are treated in different ways, as shown below.
Learn more about:
- Making treatment decisions
- Treatment options by type and stage
- What is the aim of treatment?
- Thermal ablation
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Palliative treatment
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
|early (stage I or II)||Usually treated with surgery to remove the cancer and nearby lymph nodes. If surgery is not an option, radiation therapy is offered. Sometimes, chemotherapy may be given after surgery or with radiation therapy.|
|locally advanced (stage III)||Can be treated with surgery and chemotherapy or with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Treatment will depend on the number and location of lymph nodes with cancer.|
|advanced (stage IV)||Depending on the symptoms, palliative chemotherapy and/or palliative radiation therapy may be offered. New targeted therapy and immunotherapy drugs may also be an option.|
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
|early or locally advanced (stages I–III)||Usually treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Surgery is not used.|
|advanced (stage IV)||Mainly treated with palliative chemotherapy. Palliative radiation therapy may also be given to the brain, spine, bone or other parts of the body where the cancer has spread.|
For early or locally advanced lung cancer (stages I–III), treatment may be given with the aim of making all signs and symptoms of the cancer go away (curative treatment).
Because lung cancer rarely causes obvious symptoms in the early stages, many people are diagnosed when the cancer is advanced (stage IV). This means the cancer has spread outside the lung to other parts of the body. The goal of treatment will be to maintain quality of life by controlling the cancer, slowing down its spread and managing any symptoms (palliative treatment). Specific treatments to improve breathing are covered in Managing symptoms.
Dr Henry Marshall, Thoracic Physician, The University of Queensland Thoracic Research Centre, The Prince Charles Hospital, QLD; Dr Naveed Alam, Thoracic Surgeon, St Vincent’s Melbourne and Epworth Richmond Hospitals, VIC; A/Prof Martin Borg, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, SA; Dr Lisa Briggs, Consumer; Kirsten Mooney, Thoracic Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, WA; Claire Mulvihill, Lung Cancer Support Nurse, Lung Foundation Australia; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, President, Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group, President Elect, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, and Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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