When making lung cancer treatment goals, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What do I want out of lung cancer treatment?
  2. Is this a realistic goal with my type of lung cancer?

You will work with your lung cancer care team to decide if the goal of treatment should be curing your lung cancer, controlling your lung cancer or being comfortable.

Cure. Every doctor, patient and caregiver hope that treatment will get rid of the cancer completely. This is a more realistic goal for some lung cancer patients than for others. It depends on your lung cancer profile—the type and stage of your cancer and what treatment options you are eligible for. When a lung cancer cure is your goal, you may be willing to endure more intense side effects in return for the chance at a cure.

Control. Sometimes when your cancer is at a later stage or previous lung cancer treatments have been unsuccessful, your treatment goal might change to controlling your lung cancer. This might mean choosing treatments that try to shrink or stop your cancer from growing. If this is your goal, you might not want to choose harsher lung cancer treatments and the side effects they may cause.

Comfort. If you have advanced-stage lung cancer or one that hasn't responded to treatments, you might consider treatment that focuses on symptom management that allows you to be comfortable and enjoy your life instead of treatment that will continue to address the cancer but might make you suffer. You and your doctor will work together to manage your lung cancer symptoms and help you maintain a good quality of life.

The goals listed above are broad lung cancer treatment goals. Sometimes your goals are short-term and specific. Maybe you want to feel well enough to attend a family event, or maybe you want to make sure you can be with your family and friends during a holiday. Lung cancer treatment is not perfect, but often doctors and nurses can adapt the delivery of your treatment to meet your short-term and long-term goals.

Download the Treatment Decision-Making Worksheet and Plan to fill out with your doctor.

When discussing your goals with your doctors and family members, the conversation likely will turn to your lung cancer prognosis. You may wonder:

"What is my chance of cure?", "Will I die?" and "How long do I have?"

Your doctor can't predict the future and every person is different. An estimate is possible based on the experiences of hundreds or thousands of people with the same cancer, but survival rates are not based on specifics about you. Doctors use lung cancer survival rates or survival statistics to tell you the percentage of people who survive a certain type and stage of cancer for a specific amount of time. Remember that you are not a statistic. Statistics may be helpful in providing general information but they cannot predict what will happen to you.

It is easy to spend a lot of time thinking about the "what ifs." Many doctors and nurses recommend not getting too hung up on your lung cancer prognosis. It is better to conserve your energy and focus on your treatment by taking one day at a time.

One of the best ways you can prepare for lung cancer treatment is to get healthy.

The healthier you are before treatment, the easier it will be to recover. If you smoke, the time to quit is now. Check out the American Lung Association's resources on how to quit smoking.

  • Lung Cancer Treatment Decision-Making Worksheet


Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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