Radiation therapy is a treatment for cancer that uses high-energy X-rays. A machine directs the rays of energy to the area of cancer, with a goal to kill or shrink cancer cells.
When might radiation therapy be used for lung cancer?
Radiation is most often used along with other lung cancer treatments, like surgery or chemotherapy. Your doctor may advise radiation to:
- Serve as the main treatment, sometimes along with chemotherapy.
- Shrink a lung tumor to make it easier to operate on before surgery.
- Kill any remaining small areas of cancer following a surgery.
- Treat a single area of cancer spread, such as a tumor in the brain or an adrenal gland. This may be done along with surgery to treat the mean lung tumor.
- Relieve symptoms such as pain, bleeding, trouble swallowing, cough, or problems caused by a spread of cancer.
- External beam radiation therapy. This treatment is the most common type of radiation therapy used to treat lung cancer. This treatment focuses radiation from outside the body on the cancer in order to eliminate cancer cells.
- Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy). This treatment type is used to shrink the size of tumors in the airways in order to relieve painful symptoms. Your doctor will place a small source of radioactive material into the cancer or the airway where that cancer lives, and it is usually removed after a short time. This treatment is often performed using a bronchoscope, but may also be done during surgery.
For more information on the diagnosis, treatment and more of lung cancer, visit our lung cancer information pages below.