Mayo Clinic specialists from oncology, thoracic diseases, radiation oncology, thoracic surgery and other medical specialties combine their knowledge and experience to select the most appropriate lung cancer treatment or treatments for each patient. Lung cancer treatment is based on the type and stage of tumor, and the patient's general medical condition.
Treatment options include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of these treatments. You may be offered the opportunity to participate in Mayo clinical trials when an investigational lung cancer therapy is appropriate for your medical situation.
The specific combination of treatments recommended for non-small cell lung cancer depends on cancer stage and the patient's overall health.
Combinations of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are most often used to treat small cell lung cancer. Surgery is not a treatment option except in rare cases during the very early stages of the disease.
Mayo's experienced thoracic (chest) surgeons perform lung cancer surgery with the help of a highly skilled and specialized surgical team. Non-small cell lung cancer that has not spread outside of the chest can usually be treated successfully with surgery by removing the tumor and a margin of surrounding healthy tissue.
Surgery for non-small cell lung cancer can be performed via several procedures:
Radiation therapy for lung cancer is primarily given via external-beam radiation. Radiation oncologists develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient based on cancer stage and the patient's overall health. Treatments may be given in combination with surgery and chemotherapy.
Advances in imaging techniques, such as CT and PET scans, give radiation oncologists more precise ways to locate tumors. This helps them administer a maximum dose of radiation to the tumor from several angles with less damage to surrounding tissues.
Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is a technique that precisely focuses many beams of radiation on a tumor. It is very successful at destroying small tumors while minimizing injury to surrounding healthy tissue. The primary use of this therapy is for patients who have small tumors and who are not good candidates for surgery because of other health problems. SBRT is currently being researched as an alternative to surgery.
Chemotherapy is a form of drug treatment that can be administered by mouth or by intravenous (IV) solution. Chemotherapy may increase the effectiveness of radiation treatment when both are administered together. An experimental chemotherapy drug given in a clinical trial also may be an option for patients if appropriate for their medical situation.
Photodynamic therapy is effective in treating lung cancer involving the bronchial tubes. In very early-stage cancers, this treatment can eliminate the cancer. In more advanced cases, photodynamic therapy is used to reduce symptoms from blockage of the bronchial tubes. This therapy is available at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Mayo Clinic may offer clinical trials to patients when standard treatments have been ineffective. Clinical trials are studies of new therapies that are not yet approved for treatment. Doctors use clinical trials to determine whether a therapy is safe and effective. Clinical trials may not provide a cure, but may extend life or improve quality of life. Talk with your doctor about clinical trials that may be appropriate for you.