Non-Small Cell: Treatment Options

In general, there are 5 basic ways to treat NSCLC:  surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy.
The choices of the treatments must combine the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, patient’s preferences and overall health, and most importantly, the doctor’s professional advice.
Here are the introductions of these main treatments in more detail.


The goal of surgery is to remove the lung tumor completely, as well as the nearby lymph nodes in the chest. Recovery time of the surgery depends on the removed proportion and the patients’ health condition .

And the surgery for NSCLC generally comes in the following types:

Lobectomy. This is the most effective surgery working by removing an entire lobe of the lung even the lung tumor is very small. By the way, our lung have 5 lobes, 3 in the right and 2 in the left .

A wedge resection. Sometimes, we cannot remove an entire lobe directly, and the wedge resection can remove the tumor with reserving the healthy part of lung.

Segmentectomy. This is another way to only remove the cancer portion among the entire lung.

Pneumonectomy. If the tumor develops in or near the center of the chest, then you may need this surgery to remove the entire lung.

Except for the primary surgery, other four main types of treatments can be counted as the “Adjuvant therapy”.Adjuvant therapy may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy, which aims to lower the risk of the lung cancer returning after surgery.


Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy, literally, use radiation, high energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells. The most common radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, varying from just a few days to several weeks. Sometimes, the doctors will use the CT scans, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) or stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) as a supportive method.

Like surgery, it doesn’t work for the widespread cancer.

Fatigue and loss of appetite could be the main side effects after the radiation. Sometimes, a sore throat and swallowing trouble also occur. If the side effect goes worse, patients may develop a cough, fever, or shortness of breath months and sometimes years after the radiation therapy ends, accounting for 15%.


Chemotherapy, refers to the drugs usage to destroy cancer cells, which works best to improve both the length and quality of life for people regardless of the lung cancer stages.  Most types of chemotherapy used for lung cancer are given by IV injection.

Common drugs include:
Carboplatin (Paraplatin) or cisplatin (Platinol)
Docetaxel (Docefrez, Taxotere)
Gemcitabine (Gemzar)
Nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane)
Paclitaxel (Taxol)
Pemetrexed (Alimta)
Vinorelbine (Navelbine)

Chemotherapy may cause the side effects like: fatigue, low numbers of blood cells, risk of infection, mouth sores, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, and hair loss.

If the side effects turn severer, go to find your doctor and ask for the specific treatment for them.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy means finding the specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment and then killing them, blocking the growth and spread of cancer cells, protecting the healthy cells.

For NSCLC, the following types of targeted therapy may be used, particularly in clinical trials.

1.Anti-angiogenesis therapy.
2.Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors.
3.Drugs that target other genetic changes.


Immunotherapy, works by boosting the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. In other words, this treatment strengthen your  immune system and let the stronger immune system to kill the cancer cells.

For example, the PD-1 pathway is important in controlling cancer growth. If you take the PD-L1 antibodies like Atezolizumab (Tecentriq), Nivolumab (Opdivo), Pembrolizumab (Keytruda), the growth of NSCLC maybe slowed or stopped.


Palliative care

Treatment here means reducing symptoms, improving quality of life, and supporting patients and their families. This treatment often goes with the above specific treatment, easing side effects, including  medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, emotional support, and other therapies.







* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.