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What treatments are available for small cell lung cancer?

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Quick Answer

There are five types of standard treatments available for small cell lung cancer: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, laser therapy and placement of an endoscopic stent. New types of treatments are being tested in clinical trials, according to the National Cancer Institute.

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Full Answer

Surgery is only used if the cancer is present in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes. Since small cell lung cancer is usually present in both lungs, surgery alone is not usually sufficient. Chemotherapy uses drugs taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle to stop the growth of cancer cells. Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or stunt their growth, explains the National Cancer Institute. Laser therapy is a similar treatment but uses a laser beam to kill the cancer cells. Finally, doctors sometimes use an endoscopic stent to open an airway blocked by abnormal tissue.

A cancer patient who is operated on surgically may receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy afterwards to kill any cancer cells that are left. Post-surgery treatments to lower the risk that cancer comes back is called adjuvant therapy. The National Cancer Institute states that follow-up testing is conducted to see how well treatments are working and make decisions on the future path of care.

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