Treatment Guidelines for Lung Cancer | American Lung Association

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Treatment Guidelines for Lung Cancer

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What are guidelines?

A cancer care team follows guidelines for treating lung cancer. These decisions are based on the type and stage of the patient's cancer and other aspects of their current health. Using the best practice lung cancer treatment guidelines helps ensure everyone gets the best possible care. Lung cancer treatment guidelines are created by experts in the field. They review all of the science and create a grading system for recommending lung cancer treatments.

It is important to remember that no one lung cancer treatment is right for everyone. Lung cancer treatment guidelines help point doctors toward options. Patient preference is important especially when it comes time to choose a lung cancer treatment option. One of the best things lung cancer patients can do to prepare for treatment is to know their options and speak their opinions.

What are the NCCN Guidelines?

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) offers clinical practice guidelines that are developed by experts on cancer. The cancer treatment guidelines are comprehensive and current. They are meant to help you when you talk with your doctor about your lung cancer treatment options. These guidelines do not replace the expertise and clinical judgment of your doctor. See the guidelines for non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer (which requires you to register for a free account to view).

Why aren't some lung cancer treatment options included in the guidelines?

Sometimes a particular lung cancer treatment is not included in the NCCN Guidelines. This means that there is not strong enough scientific evidence at this time to support using it as part of standard lung cancer treatment practice. There may be ongoing clinical trials to determine whether the lung cancer treatment works. Clinical trials have made many new treatments available. Some may provide treatment that is not available outside of the trial.

It is important to consider lung cancer clinical trials when patients are deciding on treatment options. Clinical trials are carefully monitored research studies. They test how well new medical approaches work in people. Each study answers scientific questions and tries to find better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose or treat lung cancer. People who take part in clinical trials for lung cancer receive up-to-date care from experts. They have a chance to contribute to the fight against lung cancer. If someone participates in a clinical trial, they may be randomly selected to the group that does not receive the new lung cancer treatment being tested. If a person is in this group, they will still receive the best-known standard of care. In a clinical trial, a team of doctors closely monitors the patient. Participants will never be treated as just a test subject. 

Learn more about clinical trials.

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Learn more about your specific type of lung cancer and treatment options using our My Lung Cancer Treatment Planning Tool

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    Lung Cancer Treatment Decision-Making Worksheet


    Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 19, 2018.

    Page Last Updated: March 11, 2019

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