Lung Cancer Treatment

Lung cancer is often deadly. Sufferers generally notice symptoms only after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This often means that the cancer has already become incurable. At this point, the prognosis is obviously poor and all that treatment can hope to achieve is the relief of the uncomfortable and often distressing symptoms of the disease, as well as prolonging the life of the patient. In the United States, only 13% of men and 17% of women diagnosed with lung cancer will still be alive, with no recurrence of the disease, five years after their diagnosis. In the United Kingdom, this figure falls to 10% including both men and women. According to the American Association for Cancer Research, 200,000 news cases of lung cancer will diagnosed in the United States in 2008 and more than 161,000 Americans will die from the disease this year.

Reducing Your Risk

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer. By stopping smoking or avoiding breathing in other people's second-hand smoke, you are taking an important step towards protecting yourself from this awful disease. It's clear that where lung cancer is concerned, prevention is better than cure. A lot better. But when it gets to the point at which a patient already has the disease, here is what he or she can expect by way of treatment...

Treatment Decisions

The type of treatment used for lung cancer will depend on many factors, including whether or not a patient has primary or secondary lung cancer. Primary lung cancer begins in the lung itself. Secondary lung cancer begins elsewhere in the body and spreads to the lungs. Treatment for secondary lung cancer will be determined by the type of the original cancer, among other things. Other factors influencing lung cancer treatment include the size and position of the cancer, how far it has spread around the lymph nodes and the body, and the general health of the patient. Doctors and oncologists will carry out a range of tests on a patient to determine what type of cancer he has and how treatment should proceed.

Chemo, Radiotherapy and Surgery

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery are the three most common types of lung cancer treatment. They can be carried out individually but more often than not a combination of all three methods is used. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are often used when the cancer has spread too far for surgery (namely, the removal the area affected by the cancer) to be effective. Or when the patient's general health is too poor to undergo an operation. Wherever possible, surgery is normally carried out as one of three procedures:

Lobectomy - removal of the lobe affected by the cancer in the lung.

Pneumonectomy - the removal of the entire lung affected by the cancer. This is the most drastic form of surgery and will only be used if absolutely necessary. Patients whose second lung is healthy will be able to breathe without difficulty after they recover from the operation. Those who had breathing problems prior to surgery will experience some discomfort.

Segmentectomy - the removal of the area affected by the cancer and a little bit of the surrounding tissue. This is only suitable for small tumors which have not spread.


Alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, to help relieve the symptoms of lung cancer (such as chest, back and shoulder pain, breathlessness and coughing) do exist and some patients find that they improve their quality of life. Such treatments should only ever be undertaken with the consent of the treating oncologist and should never, ever be considered an effective substitute for professional, medical care.