Lung Cancer Treatment Types | MedStar Health

At the MedStar Health for Lung Diseases, our multidisciplinary team of surgeons, nurses, medical oncologists, and other specialists work together to ensure our patients have ready access to the latest, most effective lung cancer treatments, including medications, therapies, surgical techniques, and treatment technologies to lung cancer at any stage.

Depending on how far the lung cancer has spread, your thoracic team will create an appropriate treatment regimen personalized for you. This treatment regimen is based on currently available scientific evidence and research designed for optimal results in cancer treatment.

Effectively treating lung cancer may require some combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, all of which are available at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore.

Lung cancer surgery

Surgeons will evaluate the lungs for removal of cancer growths, also known as tumors. There are several different options for surgeons to remove lung tissue. These include a wedge resection, a segmentectomy, a lobectomy, and a pneumonectomy.

  • wedge resection is the removal of the tumor itself that includes some of the surrounding lung tissue or lymph nodes. This is a treatment option considered for early-stage disease, specifically where patients have limited lung function.
  • segmentectomy is the removal of a section of the lung and significantly more of the lung tissue surrounding both the tumor and the lymph nodes. Some patients may have health problems that prevent a lobectomy, so the surgeon will assess if a segmentectomy is a suitable alternative to preserve lung function.
  • lobectomy is the removal of one lobe of the lungs while a pneumonectomy is the removal of all lobes of one lung. In general, surgeons try to remove as little lung as needed to eliminate the cancer. However, removal of the lymph nodes and draining the tumor is also important to help reduce the chance of the cancer from recurring. This procedure is the most common surgery performed to treat lung cancer because it removes the entire draining path for tumor cells and gives better assurance that there was not early cancer spread. Those with Stage I, Stage II or Stage IIIA cancer are potential candidates for a lobectomy. Lungs can function normally with the lobes that remain.
  • pneumonectomy is the removal of an entire lung. This is only undertaken when there is no other option for removal of the lung cancer. This usually means that the tumor is very central (right next to the heart) and involves the main blood vessels to the lung.

Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS)

Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to diagnose and treat problems in your chest, as well as alleviate symptoms of lung cancer. It can be used in a variety of procedures, including biopsy, surgery, or removing excess fluid or air from around the lungs. Since only very small incisions are needed, healing is fast with minimal pain and complications.

In many patients for whom surgery is an option, VATS may be the preferred treatment. VATS is generally used in non-small cell lung cancer patients with stage I or II cancer, and select patients with stage III. 

VATS offers patients a number of advantages over traditional open approach:

  • less pain after the operation
  • a better chance of breathing normally 
  • a better quality of life

While hospital stays can be prolonged by minor problems or complications, when discharged, VATS patients notice greater levels of independence and a faster return to their preoperative activity levels than thoracotomy patients. Ultimately, no matter which surgical approach you choose, it is important to be as active as possible. Be sure to ask your doctor when you can resume normal activities. Returning to an active daily life after surgery is the ultimate goal.

Radiation treatments

At MedStar Franklin Square, a group of cancer specialists who are skilled and experienced in lung cancer treatment meets weekly to discuss new cases and develop individualized treatment plans. We base our plan on advanced treatment techniques, the latest technology and what works best for you and your family.

The radiation oncology team will likely recommend any of the following treatment options:

  • 3-D Conformal Radiotherapy is a radiation therapy technique that sculpts radiation beams to the shape of a tumor. This is ideal for tumors that have irregular shapes or for those that are close to healthy tissues and organs. We view a tumor in three dimensions with the help of imaging, then deliver radiation beams from several directions to the tumor
  • Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) uses devices that allow the radiation beams to move and change intensity depending on what kind of tissue they are targeting. This flexibility allows different areas of a tumor to receive different amounts of radiation and helps protect healthy tissue from unnecessary radiation exposure
  • Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) uses high-quality imaging technology to create images of targeted areas of a tumor during the radiation procedure. Using these images, your radiation oncology team carefully adjusts radiation beams and doses to best fit the size, shape, and location of the tumor during your treatment session
  • Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) is a new form of radiotherapy that uses high doses of radiation to target smaller lesions within the lungs. With a highly targeted dose of radiation, your treatment team can safely deliver radiation to very small regions with a high probability of destroying that particular tumor
  • 4-D Motion and Gating uses a 4-D computerized tomography scanner to plan treatment, monitor tumor motion while you breathe, and provide gated delivery during treatment. Gating allows us to treat the tumor at its smallest dimension during one phase of your breathing cycle. This limits the radiation delivered to healthy tissue

Advanced treatments

We also offer advanced lung cancer treatments, such as:

CyberKnife® Radiation is a breakthrough technology used to treat many types of inoperable or surgically difficult tumors. It is especially successful for treating lung cancer. Lung cancer can be challenging to treat with conventional radiation because tumors in the lungs move as you breathe. This natural movement makes it difficult to focus radiation on the tumor itself and exposes surrounding healthy tissue to unnecessary doses of radiation.

CyberKnife avoids this problem, while effectively controlling or destroying lung cancer cells. With an advanced combination of computer and imaging technology, CyberKnife identifies the exact location of the lung tumor, coordinates with the Synchrony® Respiratory Tracking System (which follows the tumor's movement as you breathe), and accurately focuses radiation on the tumor without affecting surrounding healthy tissue.

Read More About CyberKnife at MedStar Health


Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs for treating cancer. It can be in pill form or be injected by needle into a vein or muscle during chemo sessions. Chemotherapy is considered a systemic therapy, meaning that the drug enters the bloodstream and circulates throughout the body to reach and destroy cancer cells in the lung and beyond. Chemotherapy is an effective way to destroy any cancer cells that break off from the main tumor and travel in the bloodstream to lymph nodes or other organs.

Our providers

Oncologist giving IV Drip Treatment to Cancer Patient

Expert oncology care

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our oncologists.

At the MedStar Health Cancer Network, we treat lung cancer with advanced care, greater access to clinical trials, and personalized treatment plans, all at convenient locations in your community.

Learn more in the video below:

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