Lung cancer

You are here: 

Treatments for stage 3 non–small cell lung cancer

The following are treatment options for stage 3 non–small cell lung cancer. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to create a treatment plan. 

Chemoradiation

The chemotherapy drug combinations most often used with chemoradiation are cisplatin with etoposide (Vepesid, VP-16) or cisplatin with vinorelbine (Navelbine).

Chemotherapy and external beam radiation therapy may be given together before surgery for stage 3A and 3B non–small cell lung cancer, in people who are well enough to have this treatment.

Chemoradiation may also be given to people who will not be having surgery and are well enough to have this treatment.

Surgery

The type of surgery done depends on where the tumour is found in the lung. Surgery may include a lobectomy, a bilobectomy, a sleeve resection or a pneumonectomy. If the cancer has spread, an extended pulmonary resection or a chest wall resection may be done. Surgery for cancer that has grown into the bones of the spine is done using 2 surgeries, one to support the spine with rods followed by another surgery to remove the tumour.

For stage 3A non–small cell lung cancer, surgery may be offered after chemoradiation to people who are healthy enough to have surgery and whose cancer has responded to chemoradiation.

For stage 3B non–small cell lung cancer, surgery is not offered because the cancer has spread too far for the treatment to be helpful.

Chemotherapy

The most common chemotherapy drug combination used is cisplatin with either vinorelbine or etoposide.

For stage 3A non–small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy may be offered before surgery for people who cannot be given radiation therapy. It may also be offered after surgery if no chemotherapy was given before surgery or if the cancer had responded to chemotherapy given before surgery.

For stage 3B non–small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy may be offered by itself to people who are not well enough to have chemoradiation or radiation therapy.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy with necitumumab (Portrazza) in combination with the chemotherapy drugs gemcitabine (Gemzar) and cisplatin may be offered for stage 3B squamous cell non–small cell lung cancer. It may be offered as the first treatment for people who are not able to have surgery.

Radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy by itself may be offered as the main treatment for people with stage 3A or stage 3B non–small cell lung cancer who are not well enough to have surgery, chemotherapy or chemoradiation as treatment.

External beam radiation therapy may be delivered by 3 D conformal radiation therapy (3 D CRT) or intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).

Clinical trials

You may be asked if you want to join a clinical trial for non–small cell lung cancer. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Stories

Nikki Ross Volunteering during Daffodil Month is a fun way to show your support.

Read Nikki's story

What’s the lifetime risk of getting cancer?

Icon - 1 in 2

The latest Canadian Cancer Statistics report shows about half of Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

Learn more