Treatments

A diagnosis of lung cancer means you will need to make decisions about different treatments.

Remember, everyone is different and your doctor will focus on the best treatment options to suit your type of cancer and your general health.

There are a number of different treatments available for lung cancer, including:

Try to gather as much information as possible about your treatment options and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You need good information to make the best decisions for your health.

Your treatment options will vary depending on the size and location of the tumour, as well as your overall health.

Treatment for lung cancer usually involves surgery to remove the tumour, but some people may also require radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or targeted therapies.

Surgery

The type of surgery you have for lung cancer will depend on the size and location of the tumour. There are generally three main types of surgery. These are:

  • Wedge resection: in which only part of the lung, not an entire lobe, is removed.
  • Lobectomy: in which a whole section of the lung or a lobe of the lung is removed.
  • Pneumonectomy: in which one entire lung is removed.

Surgery for lung cancer aims to remove as much of the tumour or cancerous cells as possible.

The length of time it takes to recover from surgery will vary. You are likely to be in hospital for a few days and to be sore for some time.

Surgery for lung cancer is a major operation so you’ll need to take things easy for a while, but you will be encouraged to keep active and to stop smoking if you haven’t already done so.

Radiation Therapy

After surgery, many people with lung cancer may have radiation treatment. This helps to kill any cancer cells that were not removed by the surgery.

Radiation therapy uses high energy x-ray beams to kill the cancer cells and is delivered by a special machine which directs the x-ray beams to the tumour site. Treatment is generally given every day for a period of weeks.


As with any treatment, you may experience side-effects during radiation therapy. Side-effects may affect you no matter which area of the body you’re having radiotherapy to. Some side-effects are more common than others. These can include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Feeling sick (nausea or vomiting)
  • Problems with eating and drinking
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Hair loss

If you experience any side-effects during radiation treatment, tell your medical team. They are in the best position to help you manage these.

Chemotherapy

Surgery for lung cancer is often followed by chemotherapy. Chemotherapy medicines work to destroy the cancer cells or control their growth. When you have chemotherapy, you are usually given a combination of two or more medicines intravenously (through the vein).

Chemotherapy is most commonly given every three to four weeks over a period of several months.

Chemotherapy kills rapidly growing cells like cancer cells, but can also kill other healthy cells that grow quickly, such as those in the bone marrow, digestive tract and hair follicles. Chemotherapy treatment can lead to a number of side-effects, including:

  • Feeling sick (nausea and vomiting)
  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Increased risk of infection.

If you’re experiencing side-effects as a result of chemotherapy, speak to your medical team about the best way to manage these. There are medicines that can be used to effectively control or minimise side-effects.