Lung cancer

Treatment for lung cancer

If you live in England, your hospital should aim to start treatment within one month of diagnosis. If you live in the rest of the UK, you should start treatment within one month of the decision to treat. This should be within two months of your original urgent referral.

In some cases, it can take longer to diagnose or treat your condition. Waiting for tests and results can be frustrating and upsetting. Remember that it’s important to get the right treatment as well as getting treatment quickly.

In the past 10 years there’s been a lot of progress in lung cancer treatments. People are usually given more than one treatment at a time and you might have several courses of treatment.

The main treatments for lung cancer are:

Surgery

There are a few different types of surgery. The surgeon might remove a section of your lung or your whole lung.

Drug therapies

These include:

  • chemotherapy: These are medications that attack cancer cells. They may be delivered straight into your bloodstream through a drip or you might have injections or tablets.
  • targeted treatments: These are medicines that stop the genetic mutations that cause some types of lung cancer.
  • immunotherapies: These are medicines that work on the immune system in the body to enhance its response to cancer cells.

Radiotherapy

This treatment uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells.

Palliative care

These are treatments to help reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. This includes controlling pain and symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety and breathlessness. Palliative care is there to provide support at all stages of cancer. There’s evidence to show that in some cases, early palliative care can lead to significant improvements in your quality of life and mood.

When your treatment ends, you should have a follow-up appointment within six weeks to discuss your ongoing care. Your cancer nurse specialist will be an important contact during and following your treatment. Your GP can tell you if there are any community-based cancer nurse specialists in your area.

End of life care

Sometimes lung cancer can’t be cured. End of life care is designed to make you as comfortable as possible.

This includes palliative care to control pain and other symptoms. It also aims to support you, your family and carers emotionally, spiritually and practically before and after death or bereavement.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about your local services. Find out more about end of life care.

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Last medically reviewed: February 2017. Due for review: February 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.