When you are diagnosed with lung cancer your treatment and care will be undertaken by a multi-disciplinary team, a group of experts in specific fields. This team will work together to create the best treatment plan for each individual. The treatment recommended will depend on many factors, including the type and stage of lung cancer you have, where the cancer has developed in the lungs and your general health. While the health professionals will create and recommend treatment plans, the final decision remains with the patient.
Most patients undergoing treatment for lung cancer will have surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, or a combination of these three, but there are also alternatives available in some cases.
Surgery is more commonly used to treat non-small cell lung cancer, where it is confined to one lung and can be followed up with a session of chemotherapy. The surgery aims to remove the cancerous cells and a portion of healthy tissue. Surgery can range from removing a small section of the lung if the cancer is diagnosed during the early stages and limited to one area to the removal of an entire lung. It can take many weeks to fully recover from a lung operation and, as with all surgery, there are potential complications
Radiotherapy can be used in several different ways, including to cure cancer and slow the spread of the disease. If a patient isn’t suitable for surgery, radiotherapy can be used as an alternative for a cure for non-small cell lung cancer.
Chemotherapy is often the treatment of lung cancer used if a patient has small cell lung cancer. The cancer-killing medication can be taken through an IV drip, tablets, or injections. Chemo can be combined with both surgery and radiotherapy to provide a complete treatment solution or on its own to slow the spread of the disease if a cure isn’t possible. It’s usually given in cycles and the number of cycles will vary from person to person and can also be used as a preventive measure to stop cancer from returning.
Alternative treatment options are sometimes recommended instead of or to complement the usual lung cancer treatment. The treatments are sometimes relatively new, can only be used in limited circumstances or are only offered when surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy are not viable. The alternative treatment options for lung cancer include biological therapies, radiofrequency ablation, cryotherapy, and photodynamic therapy.