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Treatment for Non Small Cell Lung Cancer

By eHealthIQ
Reviewed: September 28, 2016

Non small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. There are three major types of this cancer:

Squamous Cell

This cancer is associated with smoking and is often found in the center of the lung near one of the major airways.


This is the most common lung cancer of them all.

Large Cell Undifferentiated Carcinoma

This type of lung cancer begins in any part of the lung and is very aggressive.

Over the years, doctors and medical researchers have discovered and improved upon several modalities to combat non small cell lung cancer. They are:


In this type of treatment, the doctor uses the patient’s own immune system to fight the malignancy. Cancer cells proliferate because they hide from the immune system. Drugs such as nivolumab makes them available for the immune system to recognize and destroy.


There are four main types of lung cancer surgery. In wedge resection, a portion of the lung that contains the tumor is removed. In lobectomy, the surgeon removes the lobe of the lung where the cancer is found. In pneumonectomy, the entire cancerous lung is removed.

Another treatment called video-assisted thoracic surgery uses much smaller incisions than traditional lung surgery. A thorascope and miniaturized instruments are inserted into the patient, and the diseased tissue is removed. This is used in wedge resection and lobectomy. Video-assisted thoracic surgery is also used to perform biopsies.


There are three types of chemotherapy used to fight non small cell lung cancer. In neoadjuvant chemotherapy, the drugs are given to the patient before surgery to kill as many cancer cells as possible before the operation. The treatment also allows the doctor to see which type of chemotherapy drugs work for a particular patient.

Adjuvant chemotherapy is given to a patient after surgery or radiation to destroy any cancer cells that were not removed by the surgery.

In systemic chemotherapy, the drug is allowed to circulate around the patient’s system to kill any cancer cells present in their body.


There are several types of radiation. External beam radiation aims radiation at the site of the cancer. In brachytherapy, the doctor places tiny radiation implants near or inside the tumor. With systemic radiation therapy, the patient is either injected with or swallows radioactive material to kill malignant cells.

Targeted Drugs

In this relatively new therapy, the patient takes drugs called kinase inhibitors that lock on to certain proteins and receptors in the cancer cells and either kill them or keep them from dividing.


This is a surgery doctors perform on patients whose non small cell lung cancer has spread to the central nervous system. The surgeon removes as much of the tumor as possible, and chemotherapy drugs and radiation are applied to the area of the tumor during the surgery. This reduces the side effects of both chemotherapy and radiation. Sometimes, stereotactic radiation therapy is used instead of surgery to treat the patient if there is more than one tumor in the brain.

Lung cancer patients also receive interventional pulmonology. This helps the patient to breathe better by clearing obstructions from their airways, whether they be caused by tumors, bleeding, pleural effusions or the side effects of radiation or chemotherapy. Pleural effusions are fluids that invade the lung tissue and make it difficult to breathe.



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