Sarah Cannon - November 25, 2015

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men and women. It's estimated that in 2017, there will be  222,500 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed, which represents 14 percent of all new cancer cases.

Lung cancer can develop within the five lobes that make up the right and left lungs and sometimes within the bronchi - the two tubes that lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the lungs. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell (squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma) and small cell lung cancer (small cell carcinoma or oat cell cancer, or combined small cell carcinoma). lung cancer_treatment options_small

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with lung cancer, chances are the cancer was non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for 85 to 90 percent of lung cancers.

Treatment Options for Lung Cancer

There are several types of treatments that are used for non-small cell and small cell lung cancer. Treatment plans are determined by the stage of the cancer.

  • Wedge or segmental resection involves removing the tumor and a portion of surrounding tissue.
  • Lobectomy removes an entire lobe.
  • Pneumonectomy removes one lung.
  • Sleeve resection removes part of the bronchus.

Radiation therapy

  • External radiation therapy directs radiation to the cancer from outside the body.
  • Internal radiation therapy involves implanting a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds or wires directly into or near the cancer.


  • Systemic chemotherapy is administered orally or via an injection into the vein or muscle.
  • Regional chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ or a body cavity where the cancer is located.

Laser therapy

  • A laser beam that kills cancer cells

Specific non-small cell lung cancer treatments include:

Targeted therapy

  • Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell that identifies what may help cancer cells grow and blocks them.
  • Small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors are drugs that work inside cancer cells and block signals needed for tumors to grow.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

  • A drug-and-laser light combination that kills cancer cells

Cryosurgery (cryotherapy)

  • A treatment that freezes and destroys abnormal tissue, such as carcinoma in situ


  • A probe or needle that is heated by an electric current and then used to destroy abnormal tissue

Watchful waiting

  • Closely monitoring a patient's condition without giving any treatment until signs or symptoms appear or change (used in certain cases of non-small cell lung cancer)

Sarah Cannon Research Institute has been involved in many clinical trials for targeted therapies for lung cancer. For more information on the Sarah Cannon lung cancer research program, watch this video with the director of the program, Dr. David Spigel.

American Cancer Society
Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics
National Cancer Institute