Lung Cancer Treatment

Treating Lung Cancer at Scripps

Treatment for lung cancer is mainly dependent on the cancer type and disease stage.

Early stage (stage I) lung cancers are most commonly treated with surgery, which may be open chest surgery, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) or minimally invasive robotic surgery. Surgery for stage I cancer of the lung may be followed by chemotherapy if the tumor is large.

Stage II and stage III lung cancers can be treated through surgery and combination of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, including stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), 3-D conformal radiation therapy or proton therapy. Stage IV lung cancers are typically inoperable, so radiation therapy may be used for palliative care with the aim of reducing pain and addressing obstructive breathing symptoms.

Surgery for lung cancer

For early stage non-small cell lung cancer lung cancer (NSCLC) and early stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC), three types of surgeries may be options.

  • Segmentectomy or “wedge resection” is a surgery when part of a lung lobe is removed.
  • Lobectomy is when an entire section (lobe) of a lung is removed.
  • Pneumonectomy involves the removal of an entire lung.

These surgical procedures can be performed through different approaches, depending on several factors, including location of tumor or tumors and the patient’s health.

  • Open chest surgery
    Also referred to as a thoracotomy, involves an incision between the ribs in the side of the chest and typically requires a hospital stay of 5 days to 7 days.
  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS)
    This surgery is performed by through small incisions by surgeons aided by use of a small video camera inserted in the patient’s chest cavity.
  • Minimally invasive robotic surgery
    This surgery is performed through use of a magnified 3-D high-definition vision system and tiny wristed instruments that provide greater range of mobility and dexterity than the human wrist. Robotic surgery requires extensive training and certification. Scripps is one of the only San Diego health care providers to offer this procedure as an option for lung cancer surgery with the goal of shorter hospital stays and reduced pain for patients.

Lung cancer radiation therapy

Our renowned radiation oncology experts offer state-of-the-art options to treat all types of cancer, including cancer of the lung. Radiation therapy for lung cancer may include:

  • 3-D conformal radiotherapy
    This therapy allows physicians to visualize a patient’s anatomy in 3-D though use of advanced computer software to match the radiation dose to the shape of the tumor while minimizing exposure of surrounding healthy tissues and organs
  • Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT)
    Also known as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), SBRT can be used to treat tumors in almost any part of the body, including the lungs, spine and prostate. Multiple radiation treatments (typically two to five) are delivered to a precise volume.
  • Proton therapy
    This therapy uses a controlled beam of protons to target and destroy tumors with unprecedented accuracy. Unlike other forms of radiation, the precise delivery of proton energy limits damage to surrounding healthy tissues.

Chemotherapy for lung cancer

Chemotherapy treatment is the use of drugs (administered orally or intravenously) to attack cancerous cells directly or indirectly. The aim is to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth.

Scripps Health offers chemotherapy in several locations throughout San Diego County, including Scripps hospitals, outpatient infusion centers, or in Scripps affiliated physicians’ offices. All infusion treatments are managed by physicians and nurses specially trained in oncology.

Scripps nurses administering chemotherapy have completed extensive training and education through the Oncology Nursing Society. Many Scripps clinical pharmacists have advanced training in chemotherapy preparation and treatment. A team of multidisciplinary professionals — including a dedicated lung cancer nurse navigator — works collaboratively to provide patients the highest quality of care and comfort.

Infusion services and locations

New medications and advancements in chemotherapy allow most patients to receive their infusion therapy in an outpatient setting. Each visit to a Scripps Health infusion center includes a nurse assessment to determine how a patient is tolerating treatment. The assessment includes recommendations, educational materials and consultation with a pharmacist if needed.

Chemotherapy and other infusion treatments can produce physical symptoms that may be controlled through medication, nutrition and relaxation techniques. Nurses and pharmacists at all Scripps infusion centers work with patients to help manage any symptoms.

Clinical trials for lung cancer

Scripps Health physicians and scientists are actively involved in research and studies to provide greater understanding of cancer biology and enable a faster availability of new treatments to patients.

If you are interested in participating in clinical trials, please discuss with your physician clinical trials options and potentially appropriate matches.

Genetic counseling

Scripps offers genetics counseling services for patients and families. Although most cancers are not clearly linked through genes passed from one generation to the next, a small portion of cancers are inherited, according to the American Cancer Society.