Treatments for non–small cell lung cancer

If you have non–small cell lung cancer, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your health and specific information about the cancer. When deciding which treatments to offer for non–small cell lung cancer, your healthcare team will consider:

  • the stage of the cancer
  • whether the cancer can be removed with surgery
  • any genetic changes to the lung cancer cells
  • immune checkpoint markers in lung cancer cells
  • your overall health, including your lung function
  • your personal preferences (what you want)

Expert review and references

  • Stephen Lam, MD, FRCPC
  • American Cancer Society . Treating Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer . 2019 : https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/treating-non-small-cell.html.
  • Cancer Care Ontario. Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Pathway Map. 2019: Version 2019.05.
  • Chiang A, Detterbeck FC, Stewart T, Decker RH, Tanoue L. Non–small cell lung cancer. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2019: 48:618–670.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network . NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (Version 3.2020) . 2020 .
  • Brahmer JR, Covindan R, Anders RA, Antonia SJ, Sagorksy S, et al. The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer consensus statement on immunotherapy for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer. 2018: 6:75.
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  • Sui H, Ningxia M, Wang Y, Li H, Xiaoming L, Su Y, Yang J. Anti-PD1/PD-L1 therapy for non-small cell lung cancer: toward personalized medicine and combination strategies. Journal of Immunology Research. 2018: 2018: 6984948.
  • Lee SH. Chemotherapy for lung cancer in the era of personalized medicine. Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases. 2019: 82:179–189.
  • PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board . Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) – Health Professional Version . Bethesda, MD : National Cancer Institute ; 2020 : https://www.cancer.gov/types/lung/hp/non-small-cell-lung-treatment-pdq.
  • PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board . Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) – Patient Version . Bethesda, MD : National Cancer Institute ; 2020: https://www.cancer.gov/types/lung/patient/non-small-cell-lung-treatment-pdq.
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Treatments for stage 0 non–small cell lung cancer

The following are treatment options for stage 0 non−small cell lung cancer. The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the person with cancer.

Treatments for stage 1 non–small cell lung cancer

The following are treatment options for stage 1 non–small cell lung cancer. The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the person with cancer.

Treatments for stage 2 non–small cell lung cancer

The following are treatment options for stage 2 non−small cell lung cancer. The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the person with cancer.

Treatments for stage 3 non–small cell lung cancer

The following are treatment options for stage 3 non–small cell lung cancer. The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the person with cancer.

Treatments for stage 4 non–small cell lung cancer

The following are treatment options for stage 4 non–small cell lung cancer. Stage 4 non–small cell lung cancer is very difficult to treat because it has spread to distant sites throughout the body. The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the person with cancer.

Treatments for recurrent non–small cell lung cancer

The following are treatment options for recurrent non−small cell lung cancer. The types of treatment offered for recurrent non−small cell lung cancer depend on the unique needs of the person with cancer.

Treatments for small cell lung cancer

If you have small cell lung cancer, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your health and specific information about the cancer.

Surgery for non–small cell lung cancer

Surgery may be used to treat non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It is used to potentially cure the cancer by completely removing the tumour. Surgery is rarely offered if the tumour cannot be completely removed.

Chemotherapy for lung cancer

Chemotherapy is commonly used to treat lung cancer.

Radiation therapy for lung cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells.

Targeted therapy for non–small cell lung cancer

Some people with non–small cell lung cancer have targeted therapy. It uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on cancer cells or inside them.

Immunotherapy for non–small cell lung cancer

Some people with non–small cell lung cancer may have immunotherapy. Immunotherapy uses natural or artificial substances that change the way cells behave.

Endobronchial therapies for lung cancer

Endobronchial therapies are treatments given during bronchoscopy. For endobronchial therapies to be effective, the bronchoscope must reach the tumour.

Follow-up after treatment for lung cancer

Lung cancer behaves differently in each person, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. People with lung cancer should talk to their doctor about a follow-up plan that suits their individual situation.