3 types of commonly used lung cancer treatments: chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.
These treatments may be used individually or in combination to achieve the best chance of
curing this dreaded disease.
How does the doctor decide on the specific lung cancer treatments to be used in a particular
case? That depends on several factors.
For instance, the exact location of the cancer within the lung has a bearing on the kind of
treatment adopted. So does the type of cancer and the stage of the cancer. The stage of the
cancer refers to the spread of the disease - higher stages imply that the cancer has spread out
beyond its original location. The general health of the patient is an important consideration as
Of the two major types of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer is considerably more dangerous
because of its tendency to spread rapidly to other parts of the body. This type of cancer is
usually treated with chemotherapy. Surgery is generally not used because the cancer may
already have spread to other areas. Therefore surgical removal of a tumor would not really help.
Radiotherapy is also used as one of the lung cancer treatments for small cell lung cancer. Once
chemotherapy has been administered (or while it is being used), the doctor may use radiation
treatment in the chest area. This is done to prevent the cancer from showing up again.
Since small cell lung cancer often spreads to the brain, the doctor may also use a procedure
called prophylactic cranial irradiation (abbreviated PCI) to deal with the presence of cancer in
the brain. This is a form of radiotherapy that is applied to the brain.
The above applies for those who have early stage or limited small cell lung cancer. Patients with
extensive disease are also usually given chemotherapy and radiation treatment to relieve
Treatment for those with non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) depends on the stage of the
Stage zero is a very early stage of the disease - it is quite rare for the disease to be detected
this early. At this stage, the cancer can be cured by surgery, usually through a procedure called
wedge resection of segmentectomy. This removes only a small part of the lung and does not
impair lung function to any great extent.
Stage 1 disease can also be cured through surgery. A greater portion of the lung must be
removed using a procedure called lobectomy. In this case, one of the lobes of the lung is
removed to get rid of the malignancy. Other lung cancer treatments like radio frequency ablation
and radical radiotherapy may be used in cases where surgery is not possible.
Stage 2 of the disease often requires a lobectomy combined with chemotherapy. The latter is
recommended in cases where the cancer could not be completely eliminated by a lobectomy. It
may also be done to prevent the cancer from recurring.
Stage 3 lung cancer may also be treated with surgery, provided the cancer is in a location that
can be surgically removed. If the cancer is too close to the heart, for example, surgery may not
be possible. Radiotherapy may be used as an alternative. Chemotherapy is also used
when cancer has spread to lymph nodes.
There is no real cure for stage 4 non small cell lung cancer. The disease has spread to other
parts of the body. However, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used at this stage to increase
life expectancy and to relieve symptoms.
These lung cancer treatments when applied early enough can enable a patient to lead a normal
or near-normal life.