How is lung cancer treated?

The kind of treatment and the long-term outcome of lung cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer. It also depends on your age and your overall health.

Treatment for both non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) may include:


Lung surgery to remove the cancer may be an option when your cancer is in only one lung or present in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes. It usually is done only if your doctor thinks all the cancer can be removed and your general health is good enough for you to handle the surgery. This may involve removing the cancer, the affected lobe of lung, or the entire lung.


Radiation treatment is the use of high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours. Most radiation for lung cancer is given externally, which means that the radiation comes from a machine outside the body. It is often used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy, or both. But it may be used alone if surgery is not possible.


Chemotherapy is the most effective treatment for small cell lung cancer. It can help control the growth and spread of the cancer, but it cures lung cancer in only a small number of people. It also may be used to treat more advanced stages of non-small cell lung cancer.

Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the medicines enter your bloodstream, travel through your body, and kill cancer cells both inside and outside the lung area. Some chemotherapy drugs are taken by mouth (orally), while others are injected into a vein (intravenous, or IV).

Laser therapy.

Laser therapy uses a highly focused beam of light to kill cancer cells.

Other treatments for NSCLC include:

Targeted therapy.

Targeted therapy is the use of medicines such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors or monoclonal antibodies to block cancer growth.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT).

PDT uses medicine and a special light to treat cancer.


Cryosurgery may be used to freeze and destroy lung tumours.

Radiofrequency ablation.

This uses a small needle inserted through the skin and into the tumour. Energy passes through the needle into the tumour. This heats and kills cancer cells. It also closes the little blood vessels in the area so there is less bleeding.


Electrocautery is the use of a low-voltage electrical charge to destroy tumours.

Watchful waiting.

Watchful waiting 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.

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 tumour is making it hard for you to breathe.

How is complementary medicine used to treat lung cancer?

People sometimes use complementary treatments along with medical treatment to help relieve symptoms and side effects of cancer treatments. Some of the complementary therapies that may be helpful include:

  • Acupuncture to relieve pain.
  • Meditation or yoga to relieve stress.
  • Light massage (not deep tissue or intense pressure) or biofeedback to ease tension.
  • Breathing exercises for relaxation.

These mind-body treatments may help you feel better. They can make it easier to cope with treatment. They also may reduce chronic low back pain, joint pain, headaches, and pain from treatments.

Before you try a complementary therapy, talk to your doctor about the possible value and potential side effects. Let your doctor know if you are already using any such therapies. They are not meant to take the place of standard medical treatment.

It can be hard to accept that you have lung cancer . It’s normal to feel sad or angry. At totally Health, we want to help people feel more motivated, confident and in control of managing their own health, so they can make changes that help them feel better.

We help people with all types of cancer related health issues. We are here for you – when you need us. We listen. We understand. We help. We want you to live your life to the full, feel good and take charge of your health.

If you would like to know more about our service and how we could help you, please call 0333 004 0043.