Lung Cancer Treatment Options

Your doctors and cancer care team will consider several factors when developing a plan to treat your lung cancer.

These factors include the type and stage of lung cancer you have, and your overall health. Treatment options for non-small cell lung cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and, in more advanced cases of the disease, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. Small cell lung cancer is typically treated with chemotherapy and radiation.

Treatment for lung cancer is individualized, meaning your doctor will recommend specific treatments that take into account:

  • The type of cancer, such as small cell or non-small cell lung cancer
  • The cancer stage
  • Your overall health
  • Your personal goals

Lung cancer treatment may require one therapy (or procedure) or a combination of treatments. At MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, our lung cancer specialists use a variety of options to effectively treat lung cancer and improve treatment outcomes:


Surgery for lung cancer aims to remove the tumor and surrounding tissues and lymph nodes. Surgery may be the only treatment necessary if your cancer is in an early stage and has not spread, or it may be combined with chemotherapy and radiation if your cancer is beyond the earliest stages.

MD Anderson at Cooper’s surgeons have extensive experience in the latest surgical procedures to treat lung cancer, including:

  • Segmental (wedge) resection: involves removing a triangular-shape section of lung tissue as well as some surrounding tissue.
  • Lobectomy: involves removing the entire lobe of a lung where a tumor is located. There are five lobes in the lungs – three in the right lung and two in the left.
  • Pneumonectomy: involves removing an entire lung.
  • Sleeve resection: involves removing a tumor by cutting above and below it and then connecting the remaining sections back together.

MD Anderson at Cooper thoracic surgeons perform minimally invasive robotic surgery for lung cancer, which uses several small incisions rather than one larger incision. A high-definition, 3D camera gives the surgeons a superior view of the tissues being operated on. Robotic surgery significantly reduces the time it takes for each procedure, reduces hospital stays, and reduces recovery time at home.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to shrink tumors by destroying cancer cells or to prevent tumors from growing and spreading. Depending on the stage of cancer, the procedure may be the primary treatment approach or be combined with other cancer treatments like chemotherapy and surgery.

Radiation is most often delivered from outside the body but may also be delivered internally with implants to target tumors. The main types of radiation therapy that may be used to treat lung cancer are:

  • External beam radiation therapy, or EBRT – uses a beam outside of the body to target tumors. There are several types of external beam radiation therapy, including stereostatic body radiation therapy, three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy, and stereostatic radiosurgery.
  • Internal beam radiation, or brachytherapy – uses a bronchoscope to deliver radiation in pellet or implant form to a tumor with while not affecting the healthy tissue around the tumor. Most forms of internal radiation are temporary and removed from the body after a few minutes.


Chemotherapy aims to destroy cancer cells and may be used on its own or in combination with other treatment approaches, depending on the stage of your lung cancer. Chemotherapy is a common treatment approach for both non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.


Immunotherapy involves harnessing the power of a person’s own immune system to treat cancer. This treatment approach is typically used in advanced cancer and may be used on its own or along with standard cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies are treatments with drugs that specifically home in on certain changes that occur in cancer cells to keep them from growing and spreading. Targeted therapy is typically used in advanced cancers and may be used in combination with other treatment approaches, like chemotherapy. There are certain kinds of tests needed to see whether this therapy would be appropriate for your type of cancer.

Make an Appointment With a Lung Cancer Expert

To learn more about lung cancer treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper or to schedule an appointment with one of our lung cancer specialists, please call 855.MDA.COOPER (855.632.2667) or request an appointment form using our online form.