In general, surgery is believed to offer the best prospects for cure for early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In spite of the intention to consider all patients with stage I-II disease for surgery, there are those who, although technically operable, either refuse surgery or are considered inoperable because of insufficient respiratory reserve, cardiovascular disease or general frailty. This group may therefore be considered "medically inoperable". Some respiratory physicians refer these patients for radical radiotherapy whilst others believe that radiotherapy has little to offer and adopt a watch policy, referring patients for palliative radiotherapy only when they become symptomatic.
Although there is little evidence from randomised trials to support the use of radical radiotherapy for stage I/II NSCLC, it is the perception of most clinical oncologists (radiotherapists) that patients should receive radical, as opposed to palliative, treatment (COIN 1999).