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Radiation therapy for Lung cancer


Treatment for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer treatment depends on several factors, including the type and size of the cancer, its location and your overall health. Typically, several different treatments and combinations of treatments will be used to combat lung cancer. During treatment, a team of doctors may be involved in your care, including a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist and a surgeon.

  • Non-small cell lung cancer may be treated first with surgery. Your doctor may also suggest radiation therapy or chemotherapy either alone or in combination.
  • Small cell lung cancer is often treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy either at the same time or one right after the other.

Understanding Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, is the careful use of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer.

  • Cancer doctors called radiation oncologists use radiation therapy to try to cure cancer, to control cancer growth or to relieve symptoms, such as pain.
  • Radiation therapy works within cancer cells by damaging their ability to multiply. When these cells die, the body naturally eliminates them.
  • Healthy cells are also affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way cancer cells cannot.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily radiation treatments targeting your lung tumor.

  • Radiation therapy treatments are delivered in a series of daily sessions. Each treatment itself is painless and will last less than 30 minutes, Monday through Friday, for several weeks.
  • 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) combines multiple radiation treatment fields to deliver precise doses of radiation to the lung tumor. Tailoring each of the radiation beams to accurately focus on the tumor targets the cancer while protecting nearby healthy tissue.
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a form of 3D-CRT that modifies the radiation by varying the intensity of each radiation beam. This technique allows a precise adjustment of radiation doses to the tissues within the target area, possibly allowing a higher radiation dose to the tumor and keeping more radiation away from nearby normal tissues. IMRT is still being studied for lung cancer.
  • Your radiation oncologist may recommend applying radiation to the brain after successfully treating small cell lung cancer. Called prophylactic cranial irradiation, or PCI, this treatment is not recommended for all patients.

Internal Radiation

In some cases, your doctor may recommend brachytherapy. Also called internal radiation, brachytherapy involves placing radioactive material into a tumor or its surrounding tissue.

  • During bronchoscopy, one or two thin plastic tubes called catheters will be placed down your nose and into the airways of the lung.
  • The tube or tubes are then connected to a brachytherapy machine. This holds the radioactive source, which is in the form of a ribbon with radioactive seeds. Your doctor slides the ribbon into the tube in your lung so the seeds are next to the tumor.
  • The ribbon will be left in place from a few minutes to a few days.

Possible Side Effects

Patients often experience little or no side effects from radiation therapy and are able to continue normal routines.

  • Side effects are temporary and usually limited to the area that received radiation.
  • Possible problems include skin irritation, difficulty or pain when swallowing, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
  • Talk to your doctor about any discomfort you feel. He or she may be able to provide drugs and other treatments to help.


Find out more and speak with a specialist.

Call 718-765-2500 to make an appointment with a lung cancer specialist or request an appointment online today.