Your doctors will tell you about the benefits, risks and side-effects of the treatments being offered.

Each person is different and your surgery and/or treatment will be tailored to your needs and discussed fully with you before proceeding. Throughout your care, procedures, surgery and treatment will not be carried out without your consent. This is an important process to make sure patients understand their treatment.

Treatment for lung cancer can be given in many ways, or a combination of:

The treatment for non-small cell lung cancer is different from the treatment for small cell lung cancer.

Small cell lung cancer

Small cell lung cancer is mostly treated with chemotherapy. Surgery is suitable for patients if there is no sign that the cancer has spread to the lymph glands in the centre of the chest (the mediastinal lymph glands) and this is rare with small cell lung cancer. It has usually spread at the time of diagnosis; therefore chemotherapy is usually the main treatment.
You may also have radiotherapy to treat this type of lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of these, depending on the stage when the cancer is diagnosed. Some people with advanced lung cancer may also have biological therapy.


Surgery may be the most appropriate treatment for patients with localised lung cancer. Surgery to remove the cancer is a major operation and it will take a number of weeks to recover from it.

Lung surgery in Northern Ireland is provided at the Royal Victoria Hospital and Belfast City Hospital by thoracic (chest) surgeons.

Patients coming to Royal Victoria Hospital or Belfast City Hospital for surgery may be asked to come up to meet one of the medical team for a pre assessment appointment before surgery to ensure they are fit and safe for surgery. In some cases patients are asked to have an anaesthetic assessment. If patients require this then they may need to be admitted overnight.

The main surgical procedures performed as lung cancer treatments have been outlined below:

  • Lobectomy – this form of surgery is one which removes larger lung cancer tumours. This surgery removes a lobe of the lungs. There are 3 lobes in the right lung and 2 lobes in the left lung. A lobectomy can be performed as open surgery or as a video assisted thoroscopic surgery.
  • Pneumonectomy – this type of surgery removes larger cancer tumours of the lungs. It involves the surgical removal of the lung. The surgeon makes an incision in the chest while the patient is under general anesthesia and the lung is then removed through the incision.
  • Wedge resection – this type of surgery is performed on patients with small cancer tumours in the lungs. It removes the tumour and the surrounding tissue. A wedge resection removes a triangle shaped slice of the affected tissue.

For more information on lung cancer surgery, please visit the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation website.

After treatment

After treatment is completed, patients will have regular check-ups. These are very important for the surgeon or oncologist to monitor patient progress.

Patients may have x-rays, but the most important part of the follow-up will be the specialist’s examination of their lungs.

If patients have any problems or notice any new symptoms in between review appointments, they should let their GP, consultant or named nurse know as soon as possible and they can arrange a more urgent review.