Diagnosis and Treatment
There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These categories refer to what the cancer cells look like under a microscope. Non-small cell lung cancer is more common than small cell lung cancer.
Lung cancer stage depends on the extent of disease, which includes information about how big a cancer is or how far it has spread through the lungs, lymph nodes, and the rest of the body.
Doctors use information about the type of lung cancer and stage to plan treatment and to monitor progress of treatment. For more information, visit Stages of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and Stages of Small Cell Lung Cancer.
Types of Treatment
There are several ways to treat lung cancer. The treatment depends on the type of lung cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. People with lung cancer often get more than one kind of treatment.
- Surgery: Doctors cut out and remove the cancer in an operation.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs could be pills or medicines given through an IV (intravenous) tube.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation uses high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer cells. The rays are aimed at the part of the body where the cancer is.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. The drugs could be pills or medicines given through an IV tube. Bevacizumab (Avastin) and erlotinib (Tarceva) can be used to treat non-small cell lung cancer.
People with non-small cell lung cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments. People with small cell lung cancer are usually treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Learn about treatments for non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.
These treatments may be provided by different doctors on your medical team. Pulmonologists are doctors who are experts in diseases of the lungs. Surgeons are doctors who perform operations. Thoracic surgeons specialize in chest, heart, and lung surgery. Medical oncologists are doctors who are experts in cancer and treat cancers with medicines. Radiation oncologists are doctors who treat cancers with radiation.
Clinical trials use new treatment options to see if they are safe and effective. If you have cancer, you may want to take part. Visit the sites listed below for more information.
- NIH Clinical Research Trials and You (National Institutes of Health)
- Learn About Clinical Trials (National Cancer Institute)
- Search for Clinical Trials (National Cancer Institute)
- ClinicalTrials.gov (National Institutes of Health)
Complementary and alternative medicine are medicines and health practices that are not standard cancer treatments. Complementary medicine is used in addition to standard treatments, and alternative medicine is used instead of standard treatments. Meditation, yoga, and supplements like vitamins and herbs are some examples.
Many kinds of complementary and alternative medicine have not been tested scientifically and may not be safe. Talk to your doctor before you start any kind of complementary or alternative medicine.
Choosing the treatment that is right for you may be hard. Talk to your cancer doctor about the treatment options available for your type and stage of cancer. Your doctor can explain the risks and benefits of each treatment and their side effects.
Sometimes people get an opinion from more than one cancer doctor. This is called a "second opinion." Getting a second opinion may help you choose the treatment that is right for you.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
4770 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30341
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC-INFO