Lung Cancer Treatment

Providing expert care in the treatment of lung cancer.

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Cancer specialist discussing lung cancer treatments with patient

Lung cancer can be treated in several ways. Which treatment may work best for you depends on a number of things:

  • The type of cancer you have:
    • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
    • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). NSCLC is the most common, representing 80 percent of all lung cancers.
    • Lung carcinoid tumors which make up only 1- 2 percent of all lung cancers.
  • The location of the tumor
  • The extent of the disease, called the stage
  • Any tests you have had during diagnosis
  • A discussion about what is right for you

Other factors also include your age, overall health, and what side effects you’ll find acceptable. 

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may also want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

Your oncologist, or cancer specialist, is the best person to answer your questions. They can tell you what your treatment choices are, how well they’re expected to work, and what the risks and side effects are. Your healthcare provider may advise a specific treatment. Or you may be offered more than one, and asked to decide which one you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It's important to take the time you need to make the best decision.

Understanding the goals of treatment for lung cancer

For some lung cancers, the goal of treatment is to cure the cancer. If cure is not possible, treatment may be used to shrink the cancer or keep it under control for as long as possible. Treatment can also improve quality of life by helping to control the symptoms of the disease. The goals of lung cancer treatment can include one or more of these things:

  • Remove or destroy the cancer in the lung
  • Remove or destroy tumors in other parts of the body
  • Kill or stop the growth or spread of lung cancer cells
  • Prevent or delay the cancer's return
  • Ease symptoms from the cancer, such as pain or trouble breathing

Lung cancer treatment options

There are several types of treatment for lung cancer, and many people undergo a combination of treatments. 

  • Surgery is often the choice for those with NSCLC that has not spread. For those with SCLC, surgery is only used when the disease is in its very early stage. Surgery is sometimes used after radiation or chemotherapy to remove tumors that have been reduced in size.
  • Radiation is the use of X-rays or radioactive particles to destroy cancer cells. For lung cancer, radiation is an option:
    • For those who are not a candidate for surgery
    • On more advanced cancers
    • When used along with chemotherapy
    • To help relieve symptoms from cancer that has spread

Legacy offers stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SART, also called stereotactic body radiation therapy or SBRT), which focuses precise, intense treatment on a tumor, limiting damage to surrounding tissue. 

  • Chemotherapy uses drugs that kill cancer cells. It is usually part of the treatment for SCLC, as well as for more advanced cases of NSCLC.

Talk to your doctor about these and other options for treating lung cancer or if a clinical trial (research study) may be right for you. Researchers are discovering new therapies for treating cancer all the time, giving doctors new resources for your care. 

Experts in treating lung cancer

Legacy Cancer Institute, located in Portland, OR, ranks among the nation’s best cancer programs. Our team features some of the region’s most recognized specialists who work together to diagnose and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Find the right provider and treatment close to home.

Legacy Cancer Institute is accredited as an integrated network cancer program by the American College of surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). Learn more about our quality cancer care.

Working together for you

Our cancer experts work together with a common goal: delivering the right care for you.

A range of specialists collaborate regularly in meetings called tumor boards to discuss the best plan for your care. Your treatment plan is made just for you, depending on your general health, your age, your particular cancer and its growth.

Legacy Health collaborates with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to advance cancer care in our region. By working together, you benefit from the strength of both leaders in cancer care. As an integrated community cancer program for adults, we make sure that you have access to the latest treatments, technology and research available.

What happens next

Many cancer treatments can cause challenging side effects. Your cancer team is dedicated to helping you manage these issues in the best ways possible.

To see how well your treatment is working, some of the tests used to diagnose and stage your cancer may be repeated. Your doctor uses these tests to decide whether to stop, change or continue treatment based on the results. The tests can also determine if cancer has returned.

Whenever possible, we work to stop cancer. But when we can’t, we can often control it for a better quality of life, often called palliative care.

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.