Treatment & Procedures

Personalized Treatment
We believe medical treatment should include not only the very best in clinical technologies and techniques, but also genuine care and compassion for each patient. Houston Methodist takes a multidisciplinary approach to every patient’s unique situation. Individualized treatment plans are our standard of care.

Tumor Staging
The treatment your doctors recommend is based on information about the type of tumor you have and how far it has spread, which is reflected in the “stage” of the tumor. Stage 1 is used to characterize disease confined to the involved organ and stage 4 indicates cancer that has spread from the affected organ to other parts of the body.

Once lung cancer has been diagnosed and staged, your doctor may recommend one or more types of treatment:

• Surgery
• Radiation therapy
• Chemotherapy
• Immunotherapy
• Targeted therapy

Surgery for lung cancer removes the tissue that contains the tumor in addition to the nearby lymph nodes. The surgeon will choose from several different approaches that remove varying amounts of your lung:

• A small part of the lung (wedge resection or segmentectomy)
• A lobe of the lung (lobectomy or sleeve lobectomy)
• The entire lung (pneumonectomy).

For patients with early stage lung cancer, we have developed minimally invasive approaches to treat lung cancer: video-assisted  lobectomy  and video assisted wedge resection. Both procedures involve incisions in the chest wall that are one to four centimeters long to remove the tumor. Both approaches provide our patients with significantly fewer complications, less pain and a faster recovery compared with the traditional open surgery, which involves a large incision.

Learn more about cancer surgery, including the roles that different surgical approaches have in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer.

Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells in a specific area. It may be used before surgery to shrink tumors, after surgery to remove cancer cells that remain in the lungs or as an alternative for patients who cannot have surgery (usually along with chemotherapy).

Lung cancer is usually treated with one of the following types of radiation therapy:

• External radiation therapy: A large machine directs radiation rays at your chest. Sessions take only a few minutes and usually occur five days a week for several weeks.
• Internal radiation therapy (also called brachytherapy): Your doctor places a small source of radioactive material (usually in the form of seeds or pellets) directly into the tumor or into the airway next to the cancer cells.
• Stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT):  This form of radiation therapy consists of multiple doses of focused radiation on the abnormal tissue of a tumor site over the course of several days or even weeks.  Houston Methodist was one of the first to pioneer SRT, which allows more exact pin-pointing of lung cancers in patients who cannot undergo surgery. Studies have shown it provides excellent accuracy with minimal side effects.

Learn more about the variety of innovative radiation therapies offered at Houston Methodist.

Chemotherapy kills lung cancer cells using drugs that are administered either through an intravenous (IV) line or orally. Chemotherapy (usually along with radiation), may be used before surgery to shrink tumors,  after surgery to kill cancer cells that may be left behind or as an alternative for patients who cannot have surgery.

You may receive your treatments in a clinic, at the doctor's office, or if oral chemotherapy is prescribed, at home. Chemotherapy is given in cycles, with each round of treatment followed by a rest period. Cycles generally last about three to four weeks, and a complete treatment program may involve four to six cycles. The side effects depend mainly on the type and amount of drugs you receive. Learn more about chemotherapy treatment, including how it works within your body and what to expect while undergoing treatment.

An emerging course of treatment is immunotherapy, which involves use of drugs to stimulate a patient’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively. Numerous types of immunotherapy can be used to treat lung cancer, either alone or in combination with other treatments.
Some immunotherapy treatments are given as intravenous infusions, whereas others are injected directly into the tumor. With all immunotherapy treatments, your health care team will discuss the rationale for this approach and its potential side effects and their prevention and management.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is a new type of treatment for lung cancer that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific mutated cancer cells that drive particular subsets of lung cancers without harming normal cells. One common advantage of targeted therapy over chemotherapy is that the targeted drugs are associated with less severe side effects and can be taken orally. Our continued commitment to research enables us to improve present and future cancer care.
Learn more about our current lung cancer-related clinical trials.