Types of Treatments

There may seem to be as many forms of treatment as there are types of cancer. But each therapy works in a different way. That's because every person—and every cancer case—is unique. Rest assured that there's a team of doctors who are each specialists in their fields, helping to do all they can for you.

Depending on the stage of your lung cancer, what the prognosis is, and what your preferences are, your healthcare team may prescribe one or more of the following treatments. Please be aware that the side effects listed below are just some of the side effects experienced. Be sure to ask your treatment team about any side effects you should be aware of depending on the procedure.


The cancer is removed along with some of the healthy tissue surrounding it. There are different procedure options depending on the size, stage, and spread of the cancer. The surgeon could remove as little as a small section of the lung to removing an entire lung.

Side effects:

Some bleeding or risk of infection is possible. Shortness of breath is to be expected but may improve over time. Meeting with a respiratory, or breathing, specialist could help. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.


This treatment uses one or more of over 100 drugs to kill cancer cells to keep them from growing. Sometimes it's given before surgery to possibly help shrink the tumor, or to lessen any pain you may have. It can also be used after surgery to possibly kill any remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, or injected into your bloodstream through a vein. It's usually given in regular treatments in a hospital, clinic or in the doctor's office over a specific duration of time. Your treatment team will determine the right duration of chemotherapy.

Side effects:

Some side effects include loss of hair, not feeling hungry, nausea/vomiting, infections, being tired, diarrhea, or constipation. Depending on the medicine, you may have other side effects such as sensitivity to heat or cold, burning or tingling feelings mostly in the hands and feet. Most of these will go away after therapy is completed but may be long lasting in some people. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.

Radiation Therapy

This treatment uses energy beams similar to x-rays, but in a strong, concentrated form. Radiation therapy may target the cancer from outside of the body or can be placed inside a needle, or catheter, and placed inside of your body to help attack the cancer.

Side effects:

These will usually go away after the treatment is over. Side effects may vary depending on where and how the radiation is given. They include some hair loss where treatment was, tiredness, nausea/vomiting, and skin changes such as a mild rash, blisters, or peeling. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.


Immunotherapy works by activating your immune system to help it recognize and attack tumor cells. Some types of immunotherapy target specific cancer cells, while others give a general boost to the immune system.

Side effects:

The most common side effects of immunotherapy include fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, and pneumonitis (an inflammation of lung tissue). If you experience side effects, your doctor may be able to help you manage them.

Targeted drug therapy

These treatments are determined by the results of a biopsy of the cancer cells. This test is called molecular profiling or mutation testing, among other names. Details of the tumor biopsy give the doctor information on how to possibly target specific mutations, or abnormal cells. There are many types of targeted therapies that may be used. Some block growth signals in the cells so they stop getting bigger. Others block new blood supplies that may nourish and grow cancerous cells.

Side effects:

The most common side effects of targeted therapy include diarrhea, some liver problems, skin rash, dry skin, changes in nails, problems with wounds healing and blood clotting, and high blood pressure. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.

Palliative care

Palliative treatment helps to ease the pain and some symptoms of people with cancer, whether or not the cancer is treated. Sometimes this care is confused with hospice, or end-of-life care. Hospice is a specific type of palliative care for people who likely have six months or less to live. It's not uncommon for palliative care to be used with other cancer therapies for support. It can make people more comfortable during other treatments they may be having. This may help them complete the course of treatment their doctors prescribe. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.