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Overview of the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer

Rogerio C Lilenbaum, MD, FACP
Section Editors
Steven E Schild, MD
Howard J West, MD
Deputy Editor
Sadhna R Vora, MD


Treatment of patients with lung cancer depends upon the cell type (non-small cell versus small cell), tumor stage, molecular characteristics, and an assessment of the patient's overall medical condition. (See "Overview of the initial evaluation, treatment and prognosis of lung cancer".)

Patients with stage I, II, or III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are generally treated with curative intent using surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy (RT), or a combined modality approach (table 1). (See "Management of stage I and stage II non-small cell lung cancer" and "Management of stage III non-small cell lung cancer".)

Systemic therapy is generally indicated for patients who present with advanced disease, including those who present with metastases (stage IV) or recur following initial definitive treatment. For patients with a solitary metastasis, surgical resection or definitive irradiation of the metastasis may be appropriate. Systemic therapy and/or metastasectomy is also used for patients who have relapsed with advanced disease following prior definitive treatment. (See "Oligometastatic non-small cell lung cancer".)

This topic presents an overview of the management of patients with advanced NSCLC. More detailed discussions of specific issues are presented in the relevant topics, as indicated below.


The goals of patient management for patients with advanced NSCLC are to prolong survival and to maintain the quality of life for as long as possible, while minimizing the side effects due to treatment. The approach should recognize the palliative intent of treatment.

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 15, 2017.
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