The American Joint Committee on Cancer defines stage I non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) as consisting of patients with a T1 or T2 primary tumor designation and no evidence of hilar or mediastinal nodal disease (N0) or metastatic spread (M0). Medically fit patients in this clinical stage category based on conventional staging techniques should be considered for aggressive local therapy, and curative treatment is possible. Surgical resection is the accepted treatment for patients with this stage grouping, and full lobar or greater (lobectomy, pneumonectomy) rather than sublobar (wedge resection, segmentectomy) resection is strongly suggested. There is insufficient data to suggest that one method of resection (open thoracotomy, minimally invasive techniques) is superior to another. The performance of a systematic sampling or full mediastinal lymph node dissection may improve pathologic staging but is unproven therapeutically. There are no data supporting the routine use of chemotherapy in an adjuvant or neoadjuvant setting; however, recent phase II data suggest that neoadjuvant chemotherapy is feasible and safe, and larger phase III trials are now evaluating this modality. Primary radiation therapy should be considered for inoperable patients. The use of neoadjuvant or adjuvant radiation therapy in patients with stage I NSCLC is of unproven benefit.