Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Treatment

Specific treatment for lung cancer will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history.
  • Extent of the disease. 
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies. 
  • Expectations for the course of the disease. 
  • Your opinion, preference or goals.

Lung cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, laser therapy or a combination of treatments:

  • Surgery– at the VCU Massey Cancer Center, when possible, we approach all of our lung cancer surgeries with a minimally invasive methodology. Three main types of surgery are most often used in lung cancer treatment. The choice depends on the size and location of the tumor in the lung, the extent of the cancer, the general health of the patient and other factors.
    • Segmental or wedge resection – removal of only a small part of the lung. 
    • Lobectomy – removal of an entire lobe of the lung. 
    • Pneumonectomy – removal of an entire lung.
  • Radiation therapy– the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors. Radiation also may be used with chemotherapy to treat lung cancer. There are two ways to deliver radiation therapy, including external radiation:
    • External radiation (external beam therapy) – a treatment that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. The machine is controlled by the radiation therapist. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors, special shields may be used to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes. 
  • Chemotherapy – the use of anti-cancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. The oncologist will recommend a treatment plan for each individual. Chemotherapy may be given before other treatments, after other treatments or alone for lung cancer.

Clinical trials are being conducted on prevention and treatment options for lung cancer, including photodynamic therapy and chemoprevention.