Treating lung cancer used to be simpler — because there simply were not as many treatments available. Today, people facing this disease have more options, and significantly higher survival rates, than they did even a few years ago.
Recent advances allow us to precisely tailor your treatment based on the particular features of your cancer. Newer options mean increased complexity, which is why it’s essential to receive care from physicians who specialize in this disease.
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, we have been personalizing lung cancer care for decades. Our experts offer comprehensive care — from prevention, screening and diagnosis to treatment and surveillance.
A diagnosis of cancer can feel overwhelming. We have an experienced, compassionate team ready to help.
We have thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pulmonologists, chest radiologists and pathologists who specialize in lung cancer; the most advanced diagnostic, treatment and recovery programs; and extensive support. Managing symptoms, with an emphasis on quality of life, is as important to our physicians as it is to you, and it’s part of every patient’s care.
Fred Hutch patients have access to advanced therapies being explored in over a dozen clinical studies for lung cancer conducted here and at UW Medicine.
We view treatment as a collaborative effort. Your Fred Hutch doctor will explain all your options and recommend a treatment plan based on the type and stage of your cancer and several other factors, including your health, your lifestyle and the probability of curing your disease, extending your life or relieving your symptoms.
Your personal team includes more than your lung cancer physicians. Additional experts who specialize in treating people with cancer will be involved if you need them — experts like an infectious disease physician, palliative care professional, social worker, physical therapist or registered dietitian.
Learn more about our Supportive Care Services
During and after treatment, your team continues to provide follow-up care on a schedule tailored to you. The Fred Hutch Survivorship Clinic is also here to help you live your healthiest life as a lung cancer survivor.
Learn more about the Survivorship Clinic
Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, your medical oncologist may recommend chemotherapy:
Lung cancer chemotherapy is generally given every three to four weeks in cycles, either in pill form or through an intravenous (IV) line in the hand or arm or a port in the chest.
Your Fred Hutch team will talk with you about the specific medicines we recommend for you, how you’ll receive them, your treatment schedule and what to expect. We’ll also explain how to take the best possible care of yourself during treatment and after, and we’ll connect you with medical and support resources throughout Fred Hutch.
One of the major changes in lung cancer treatment recently is the introduction of immunotherapies. These medicines harness your immune system to fight your cancer. They may be used alone or with chemotherapy or, in clinical trials, with other treatments.
Most lung cancer immunotherapy relies on medicines called checkpoint inhibitors. Fred Hutch physicians and researchers are exploring additional types of immunotherapy for lung cancer.
Learn more about Immunotherapy
Proton Therapy Offers:
Too much radiation to the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor can increase the risk of side effects. This is a major concern when it comes to radiation treatment for lung cancer because the cancer may be close to your heart, healthy lung and other critical organs. The unique properties of protons allow proton radiation to better conform to your cancer, reducing excess radiation to the healthy tissues and organs around it.
A large clinical trial in lung cancer treatment recently showed that a patient’s survival after lung cancer treatment is closely related to the amount of radiation the patient’s heart received, and the amount of esophagus toxicity (swallowing difficulty) patients developed during radiation treatment (trial RTOG 0617). Proton therapy can decrease the radiation dose to the heart and the esophagus, as well as normal lung.
Below is a list of lung and thoracic cancers that can benefit from proton therapy. Our radiation oncologists use other forms of radiation to treat cancers, so they will provide you with an expert recommendation for your consideration.
You should consider proton therapy if you have lung cancer that has not spread outside your chest, especially along with one of the following:
Learn more about Proton Therapy
Many people with lung cancer have radiation therapy alone or along with other treatments. It is painless and noninvasive, and each treatment lasts only minutes.
Radiation therapy may be used:
Different types of radiation treatments are used for different situations. A few examples of the types used for lung cancer are:
In this form of radiation treatment, physicians use computed tomography (CT) to scan your tumor and create beams of radiation that closely conform to the tumor’s shape. The beams vary in shape and intensity to deliver a higher dose of radiation to the tumor and lower doses to nearby healthy tissue.
Learn more about IMRT/IGRT and other forms of external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT)
Radiosurgery is an advanced form of highly focused, high-dose radiation therapy that can kill tumors in fewer treatments than conventional radiation treatment — typically one to five sessions rather than daily sessions for several weeks. It has a greater than 95 percent chance of killing small lung tumors.
There are many names for this type of treatment, including:
Proton therapy is an advanced therapy and an important alternative to conventional radiation for many types of cancer (and some noncancerous tumors).
Lung cancer is frequently located close to critical structures. The advantage of using protons to treat this cancer is that physicians can target high doses of radiation at the cancer with the goal of minimizing radiation to healthy tissues. This may reduce side effects. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center – Proton Therapy is the only facility in the region to offer this treatment.
Fred Hutch patients have surgery at UW Medical Center - Montlake with thoracic surgeons who are among the best in the country. Surgeons at UW Medical Center do more lung operations than anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest. They also help diagnose and stage lung cancer and relieve symptoms of advanced disease.
Our surgeons have some of the most extensive experience in the world taking on the most complex cases, including patients who might be told elsewhere that they cannot have surgery or surgery is too risky.
Any surgery your team recommends will depend on the type and stage of your disease, your general health and your lung function. Your surgeon will probably remove lymph nodes too to check them for signs of cancer.
These surgeries are typically used to treat lung cancer.
Minimally invasive surgery called video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) may be an option if you have early-stage lung cancer.
Classically, surgeons make a 6- to 10-inch incision, cutting larger portions of muscles and spreading ribs to reach the tumor.
With VATS, surgeons make three to four small incisions about an inch long, cut less muscle and entirely avoid spreading ribs. They operate by inserting a camera through one incision and surgical instruments through the others.
People who have VATS may have less pain and a quicker recovery of function and quality life after leaving the hospital.
Sometimes lung cancer is difficult to remove surgically because it involves the main airways, major blood vessels, the rib cage or other important structures in the chest.
Procedures performed at UW Medical Center for complex or advanced lung cancers include:
Our surgeons also provide reconstruction if needed, such as:
Learn more about Reconstructive Surgery