Fortunately, there are several different treatment options for lung cancer, which we work hard to tailor to your individual wishes and needs. Standard treatment options include surgical resection, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. However, there are newer and more advanced options that may be available. Typically, treatment options for lung cancer are based on the size, type, and stage of your lung cancer.
In addition to standard treatments, patients with SCLC may be able to be helped with treatments being tested in clinical trials (potential new treatments).
A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Talk with your RMCC cancer care team to see if a clinical trial is right for you.
1. Surgery – Surgery may be used if the cancer is found in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes only. However, this type of lung cancer is usually found in both lungs; therefore, surgery alone is not often used.
Even if your oncologist removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the operation, chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery might also be necessary in order to kill any cancer cells that may remain. Treatment that is given after the surgery to lower the risk that the cancer will come back is called adjuvant therapy.
2. Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. This type of cancer tends to spread quickly throughout the body, so chemotherapy is typically part of the treatment plan to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy for SCLC also can be administered as:
The way the chemotherapy is given depends upon the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
3. Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. The way radiation therapy is given depends upon the type and stage of the cancer being treated. Radiation therapy is a frequent component of treating NSCLC, most often along with surgery and sometimes chemotherapy.
4. Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy drugs are used to help the body’s immune system kill cancer cells. There are several classes of immunotherapy drugs that work in different ways. The immunotherapy currently available to treat lung cancer all belong to a class called checkpoint inhibitors. Your body’s immune system is programmed to attack any cells it perceives as foreign, or not normal. Cancer cells have found ways around this system by hiding from your body’s natural immune system or by weakening the immune system itself. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are medications that are given to allow the immune system to recognize and destroy the cancer cells.
Within the last few years, there has been rapid development of immunotherapies specifically for lung cancer. They have been demonstrated to be effective alone and in combination with chemotherapy or radiation. Recent studies have shown that certain patients can obtain a long-term response with immunotherapy.
5. Laser therapy – Laser therapy is a cancer treatment that uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) to kill the cancer cells.
6. Endoscopic stent placement – An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument used to look at tissues inside the body. It has a light and a lens for viewing and may be used to place a stent in a body structure to keep the structure open. Endoscopic stent placement can be used to open an airway blocked by abnormal tissue. In some cases, follow-up tests may be needed.
Depending on the stage of the non-small cell lung cancer, your treatment plan will be adjusted. Below is an idea of what your treatment plans may look like for each of the stages:
Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers participates in more than 150 clinical trials through US Oncology Research, one of the nation’s largest community-based oncology research programs that has helped develop over 90 FDA-approved cancer therapies. These trials help provide access to the latest, most promising drugs and treatments for many types of cancer. We currently have several clinical trials open for lung cancer patients diagnosed at various stages of the disease. Talk with your medical oncologist about whether you are eligible to participate in a clinical trial.
There are two types of radiation therapies:
Lung cancer is typically treated using external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), a process in which a machine is used to aim high-energy beams at the cancer tumor from outside the body. External beam radiation, EBRT, is performed completely outside of your body and feels similar to getting an X-ray.
Treatments are usually administered once or twice a day, five days a week, for five to seven weeks, depending on your cancer’s stage and treatment goal.
Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers uses two types of external beam radiation therapy, EBRT, depending on your type of cancer and many other factors. These technologies help minimize damage to surrounding health tissue. The two EBRT technologies used at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers are:
Sometimes, certain tests that were done to diagnose the cancer, or to find out the stage of the cancer, may be repeated. In some cases, it’s to see how well the treatment is working. In others, the results are used to help make decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment altogether. This process is sometimes called re-staging.
Even after treatment has ended, some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time. The results of these tests, sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups, can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has returned.
As you go through this cancer journey, know that we will be here every step of the way. Do not hesitate to reach out to your RMCC cancer care team in times of need. We want to ease your mind by addressing any questions or concerns you may have to the best of our ability.