What is non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021
  • Author: Winston W Tan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Nagla Abdel Karim, MD, PhD  more...
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Surgery is the treatment of choice for patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) stages I through IIIA. [11] In addition, patients with resected lung cancer have a high risk of relapse and so are treated with adjuvant chemotherapy. [78] Patients with stage IIIB and IV NSCLC are usually offered chemotherapy with the option of surgery. Molecular-targeted therapy plays an increasingly important role in the treatment of advanced NSCLC.

Radiation is a reasonable option for treatment in patients who are not candidates for surgery. The role of adjuvant radiation therapy after resection of the primary tumor remains controversial.

See Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Protocols. Go to Oncology Decision Point for expert commentary on NSCLC treatment decisions and related guidelines.

Because most NSCLC cannot be cured with currently available therapeutic modalities, the appropriate application of skilled palliative care is an important part of treatment. Increasing evidence supports offering palliative care concurrently with standard oncologic care at the initial diagnosis of advanced NSCLC. [79]

For example, a clinical trial found that patients with metastatic NSCLC randomized to early palliative care had a better quality of life and, surprisingly, longer median survival than those randomized to standard oncologic care alone. The palliative care group also had less depressive symptoms, and fewer patients in this group received aggressive end-of-life care. [80]

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