The possible benefits of treatment for lung cancer depend on how big the tumor is and how far it has spread. In some cases it is possible to achieve cure by removing the tumor. Otherwise, the aim of treatment is to slow down the growth and spread of the tumor to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
If the tumor is small, surgery may be able to remove it completely. Surgery will also generally relieve any symptoms of the cancer.
For a person whose tumor cannot be resected, radiotherapy can shrink the cancer and may relieve some symptoms. A cure is less likely than with surgery. However radiation can reduce coughing, pain and breathlessness and therefore make life easier.
For people in whom the cancer has grown beyond the lung, chemotherapy can slow the spread to other organs and can reduce the symptoms such as pain. It may also help people live longer, but a complete cure is unlikely one the cancer has spread to other organs. Other drugs such as painkillers may also be used to make life as comfortable as possible.