Lung Cancer Treatment Options: A Comprehensive Guide In 2024

Lung Cancer Treatment

The treatments for lung cancer vary based on several factors, including the cancer’s stage and type, as well as your overall health. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

The National Cancer Institute predicts lung cancer will be the third most diagnosed cancer in the United States in 2023.

Lung cancer is categorized into two main types: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). SCLC typically has a poorer prognosis and often requires more aggressive treatment.

There are nine standard treatments for NSCLC and six for SCLC. Let’s explore these treatment options in more detail.

Primary Treatments for Lung Cancer


Surgery is often used for early-stage lung cancer when the cancer is localized to one lung or nearby lymph nodes. This involves removing cancer cells and surrounding tissue and may be combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Surgery is not typically an option for advanced lung cancer but can help manage symptoms.

Possible Complications:

  • Reactions to anesthesia
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infections
  • Pneumonia


Chemotherapy involves using drugs to destroy cancer cells and is crucial for various stages of lung cancer. It can be used to shrink tumors before surgery or eliminate remaining cancer cells afterward. In cases where surgery isn’t possible, chemotherapy might be the primary treatment.

Uses by NSCLC Stage:

  • Stage 1: Not standard
  • Stage 2: Before or after surgery
  • Stage 3A: With or without radiation, before surgery, or before immunotherapy
  • Stage 3B/C: With radiation, possibly with more chemotherapy
  • Stage 4/Recurrent: Alone or with targeted/immunotherapy

Uses by SCLC Stage:

  • Limited Stage: With or without radiation, possibly after surgery
  • Extensive Stage: Combined with immunotherapy or alone with radiation

Side Effects:

  • Frequent infections
  • Digestive issues
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fertility issues
  • Fatigue
  • Bruising and bleeding
  • Mood changes

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy waves to target and destroy cancer cells. It’s essential for many lung cancer stages and can be used to cure or manage symptoms.

Uses by NSCLC Stage:

  • Stage 1-3A: Alone or with chemotherapy, before or after surgery
  • Stage 3B/C: With chemotherapy, followed by immunotherapy
  • Stage 4/Recurrent: As palliative treatment

Uses by SCLC Stage:

  • Limited Stage: With chemotherapy or after surgery
  • Extensive Stage: Alone or with chemotherapy, preventively to the brain

Side Effects:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • General sickness
  • Rashes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Appetite loss

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses medications that specifically attack cancer cells, sparing healthy cells. It is often used:

  • After surgery for stage 1-3A NSCLC
  • With chemotherapy for stage 4 NSCLC
  • Alone for stage 4 NSCLC

Side Effects:

  • Fatigue
  • Nail changes
  • Blood clotting issues
  • Mouth sores
  • Rashes


Immunotherapy boosts the immune system to fight cancer cells and may be recommended for:

  • Stage 2-3A NSCLC after surgery
  • Stage 3B/C NSCLC after chemotherapy and radiation
  • Stage 4 NSCLC
  • Extensive stage SCLC

Side Effects:

  • Autoimmune reactions
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • Rash
  • Appetite loss
  • Bowel changes
  • Joint pain

Other Treatments

  • Cryosurgery: Uses extreme cold to treat precancerous NSCLC.
  • Electrocautery: Uses a heated probe to remove precancerous NSCLC.
  • Photodynamic Therapy: Uses light-reactive chemicals to treat precancerous NSCLC.
  • Laser Therapy: Destroys cancer cells blocking airways in stage 4 NSCLC.
  • Endoscopic Stent Placement: Opens airways blocked by SCLC.

Prognosis and Survival Rates

The prognosis for lung cancer depends on several factors, including your age, health, cancer type, and stage. Here are the 5-year relative survival rates for NSCLC and SCLC:

All Stages28%7%

The 5-year relative survival rate indicates how many people with lung cancer are alive five years after diagnosis compared to those without cancer. For specific outlook questions, consult your doctor.


Lung cancer treatment varies based on the cancer stage, type, and your overall health. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons of each treatment and inform you of potential side effects.

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Muhammad Bilal Qayyum

MBBS from Taishan Medical University and currently working in Bahawal Victoria Hospital. The blog is a great resource for both novices and experienced users when it comes to stethoscopes. As I studied and practiced, I evaluated various models on the market, which led me to become an expert in stethoscopes.

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