Lung Cancer Treatment and Therapy

More than 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. Smoking tobacco is the most significant risk for developing this type of cancer, which typically affects patients more than 45 years old.

What Is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer typically develops in the cells that line the airways. There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer, which tends to spread quickly, and non-small cell lung cancer, which is more common and spreads more slowly.

Lung Cancer Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Doctors and other caregivers at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center will work closely with you and your family to develop a treatment plan suited to your situation. As well as providing specialized medical care, we offer a range of supportive services, including nutritional counseling, emotional and spiritual support, financial advice, and complementary therapies, such as acupuncture and massage.

There are five categories of standard treatment for patients with lung cancer.


Part or all of a lung may be removed in order to remove cancerous tissue.

  • During a wedge resection or segmentectomy, the surgeon removes the tumor and a small part of the lung.
  • Lobectomy or sleeve lobectomy involves the removal of a lobe of the lung. This is the most common surgery for lung cancer.
  • For a pneumonectomy, the surgeon removes the entire lung.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill lung cancer cells, shrink cancer cells, and decrease their ability to divide. When drugs are taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle (systemic chemotherapy), the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body. For regional chemotherapy, the drugs are placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity to target specific areas of the body.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a lung cancer therapy that uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells, shrink cancer cells, and/or decrease their ability to divide. The two main radiation therapy approaches used at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center are external radiation therapy (external beam therapy), which beams radiation directly to the cancer cells, and internal radiation therapy (implant therapy), which involves the implantation of pellets that emit radiation.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy is a lung cancer therapy that uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) to kill cancer cells.

Endoscopic stent placement

An endoscope, a thin, tube-like instrument, may be used to place a stent in an airway blocked by abnormal (cancerous) tissue, thereby helping a patient to breathe more easily.

Clinical trials are also available at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center. These research studies are designed to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. Talk to your physician if you’re interested in taking part in a clinical trial.

Cancer Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center is devoted to helping people fight cancer by offering the most advanced treatment with compassion and care. We care for adult patients in 12 specialized centers, each devoted to a different type of cancer.

Part of our commitment to conquering cancer is developing new ways to prevent and screen for cancer, as well as developing new therapies. Milestones include:

  • Development of the CA 125 test, the first and only biomarker for ovarian cancer;
  • Pioneered new approaches in the assessment and treatment of prostate cancer;
  • Development of state-of-the-art surgical techniques for brain surgery.

Patient- and Family-focused Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has long been committed to not only the care of our patients but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care - involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment – is a guiding force behind the care we provide at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center.

Quality of Patient Care

BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and following established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and where we could improve. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we compare with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Cancer Team

The Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology features a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, surgeons, physicists, radiologists, interventional radiologists, endoscopists, pathologists, specialized nursing staff, dietitians, physical therapists, and social workers who use a patient-focused approach to deliver the most effective treatment for each patient. Meet our lung cancer team.

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our lung cancer experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request form.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH