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Does Chemotherapy After Surgery Help?



For lung cancer, what is the benefit of chemotherapy after surgery? I had a stage IIA cancer (2mm nodule) removed from my lower lobe of my right lung.   What is the percentage of cancer recurrance in a patient who recieves chemotherapy  vs. a patient who does not recieve chemotherapy? Thank you.


Using chemotherapy (usually cisplatin and vinorelbine for 4 cycles) after surgery for non-small cell lung cancer has become the standard of care. There are records on how many people live 5 years after treatment, regardless of whether or not the cancer has come back. The risk of stage IIIA coming back in 5 years without chemotherapy has been reported to be as high as 60-70% and living ~ 5 years after surgery ranges from 30 to 50%.

When chemotherapy is used after surgery, there is an approximately 8 to 15% chance that people will live longer than without chemotherapy. These numbers don't look like much by themselves, but this is thought to be a significant improvement. These results are estimates from thousands of patients who participated in clinical trials, in which they were randomized to receive either chemotherapy or no chemotherapy. The choice to take treatment or not is certainly an individual one, but there is good data showing that chemotherapy may be beneficial.

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Response by:

Joanna M Brell, MD Joanna M Brell, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University