If you’ve recently been diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer, you may find yourself in an information-gathering phase. Whether trying to connect with others who’ve been in your position or spending hours scouring the internet, you probably want to learn as much as you can about what’s to come. But when it comes to stage 3 lung cancer treatment, you’ll find that the answer isn’t always clear cut. Since this type of cancer can vary quite a bit from person to person, your doctor will take several factors into account to determine what treatment plan will work best for you. Characteristics of Stage 3 Lung Cancer There are two general categories of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Non-small cell lung cancer is by far the most prominent type, accounting for approximately 85% of all lung cancer. It occurs when abnormal cells in your lungs grow out of control, forming tumors and sometimes spreading to other areas of the body. Your cancer is given a “stage” based on the size of the tumor(s) and whether it has migrated to your lymph nodes or other organs. The lower the stage, the less extensive the cancer. Stage 3 lung cancer can be further subdivided into two categories: Stage 3A: Often referred to as locally advanced lung cancer, cancer at this stage has begun to spread to lymph nodes in the chest or other nearby areas in the body. The cancer still remains on the same side of the chest as the original tumor. Stage 3B: This is considered advanced lung cancer. At this point, the cancer has spread to lymph nodes on the other side of the chest or above the collarbone. There may be more extensive involvement with nearby organs like the heart or the trachea, but it still hasn’t spread to distant parts of the body as seen with stage 4 lung cancer. Lung Cancer Treatment Options The type, size and location of your cancer play a big role in selecting your treatment regimen. Your doctor will also consider your age, your overall health, your surgical history, and your response to previous therapies. Generally, more than one form of treatment will be used to treat stage 3 lung cancer, but the combination and order in which they are given will depend on your specific case. These include: Chemotherapy: This strong medication kills rapidly dividing cancer cells but can also harm other fast-dividing cells in your body. This is often the first line of treatment for stage 3 lung cancer. Radiation: This may be given in combination with chemotherapy, or given prior to or after it instead. It may be used alone in patients who cannot tolerate chemotherapy. Surgery: Surgical removal of the cancerous tumor may be an option for some people with stage 3A lung cancer, but stage 3B cancer is usually inoperable. In some cases, surgery may be attempted after radiation or chemotherapy is used to shrink the cancer. Immunotherapy: This form of therapy boosts your body’s own immune system to help destroy cancer cells. There is only one immunotherapy drug approved for use in certain cases of stage 3 lung cancer, but otherd may be available as part of clinical trials. Targeted Therapy: By identifying specific changes that occur within cancer cells, such as a change within the cells’ genes, researchers have been able to develop treatments that target the cancer cells and stop them from growing. Several targeted therapies are currently approved for advanced lung cancer, and more are expected to come down the line. You may be eligible to receive targeted therapy if your cancer has a specific genetic mutation that has been identified in the tumor cells or if you have a certain type of lung cancer. Stage 3 Lung Cancer Treatment Outcomes Though rare, some cases of stage 3 lung cancer can be cured with treatment, especially if the cancer can be surgically removed. In most cases, however, treatment is aimed at slowing the progression of the disease and relieving symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. But as we continue to make more advances in treatment, especially in the realm of immunotherapy and targeted therapy, long-term survival rates will hopefully increase as well. Keep in mind that just as your treatment is selected for you individually, your response to treatment will be unique to your situation. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about risks versus benefits, potential side effects and any concerns you have regarding your treatment options along the way.