Adjuvant Chemotherapy in Early Stage Lung Cancer

Dr. Sunil Verma
MD, MSEd, FRCP(C), Toronto Ontario

Lung Cancer Canada Volunteer Writer

The main modalities of treatment in lung cancer include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. In general, early stage of lung cancer is treated with surgery with more advanced stages managed with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The management of early stage lung cancer has evolved over the last few months.

In order to improve patient's outcome and reduce the mortality rate for early stage lung cancer, chemotherapy is being integrated into the care of these patients after surgery - this is called adjuvant chemotherapy. Adjuvant chemotherapy is already being used in other cancers such as breast and colon cancers.

Recently there has been strong evidence presented and published supporting the use of adjuvant chemotherapy in early lung cancer. Patients who have had their cancer completely resected by their surgeons and who received adjuvant chemotherapy had a lower chance of cancer returning and lived longer compared with patients who had surgery alone. These studies have had a very high clinical impact and have led to us discussing this option with our patients. It is important to recognize however that chemotherapy treatment is associated with many side-effects, and not everyone is able to tolerate this therapy.

Hence patients should discuss this option with their surgeons and their medical oncologists.