How treatment is planned

Small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer are treated in different ways.

You will see a specialist at the hospital who will arrange any tests you may need. Once the diagnosis of lung cancer is confirmed your treatment will be planned and given by a team of specialists. This is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

Your MDT will include a:

  • surgeon who specialises in lung cancers (thoracic surgeon)
  • medical oncologist (chemotherapy specialist)
  • clinical oncologist (radiotherapy and chemotherapy specialist)
  • nurse specialist
  • radiologist who helps to analyse x-rays and scans
  • pathologist who advises on the type and extent of the cancer.

The team may include other healthcare professionals. The MDT will take into account the stage of the cancer and other factors such as your general health when advising you on treatment options.

You may be asked to make a decision about your treatment. A treatment can’t be given without your consent. Make sure you understand all the information you are given before you make a decision and ask your doctor or nurse if you have any questions.

Your multidisciplinary team (MDT)

In most hospitals a team of specialists will plan the treatment they feel is best for your situation. This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include:

  • a surgeon (who specialises in lung cancer)
  • an oncologist (a cancer doctor who specialises in radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapies)
  • a doctor who is an expert in chest and breathing conditions
  • a nurse specialist
  • radiologists who help to analyse x-rays and scans
  • pathologists who advise on the type and extent of the cancer.

The team may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a palliative care doctor or nurse who specialises in symptom control, dietitian, physiotherapist, occupational therapist (OT), psychologist or counsellor.

After the MDT meeting, your doctor and specialist nurse will talk to you about the best treatment plan for your situation. They will explain the benefits and disadvantages of different treatments.

If you smoke, your doctor may advise you to try to stop smoking. Giving up can have a positive effect on your treatment. Your GP should be able to offer different treatments to help you quit. Whether or not you stop should not affect the treatment plan your team offer you.

Our section about giving up smoking has practical tips on how to stop smoking and stay stopped.


Giving your consent

Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment.

No medical treatment can be given without your consent, and before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:

  • the type and extent of the treatment
  • its advantages and disadvantages
  • any significant risks or side effects
  • any other treatments that may be available.

If you don't understand what you've been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it's not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It's a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.

People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it's important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.

You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can't make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.

You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you don't have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don't have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.

Back to Who will be involved in your treatment decision?

Getting a second opinion

There are many reasons for wanting a second opinion about your treatment. Speak to your specialist or GP.

Making a complaint

Sometimes mistakes can be made and this can be very upsetting. If you’re thinking about making a complaint, it can help to know what’s involved.