Chemotherapy is one of the longest used and most common treatments for cancer. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell's ability to grow and reproduce. For some types of cancer, chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments such as radiation or surgery. A combination of chemotherapy medicines is typically used to fight a specific cancer.
While chemotherapy can be quite effective in treating certain cancers, the medicines reach all parts of the body, not just the cancer cells. Because treatment can result in many side effects, being prepared for these side effects can help you and your caregivers manage them effectively.
Chemotherapy can be given in various ways, such as:
- A pill to swallow
- An injection into a body cavity
- An injection into the muscle or fat tissue
- An intravenous (IV) drip directly into the bloodstream
- A topical ointment applied directly onto the skin
Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles to allow healthy cells the time to recover. Treatment may be given daily, weekly, every few weeks or monthly, depending on your situation. Chemotherapy is usually given in an outpatient setting. This includes a hospital, clinic or healthcare provider's office.
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.
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.
Types of radiation therapy include:
- Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy). This treatment type is used to shrink the size of tumors in the airways to relieve painful symptoms. Your doctor will place a small source of radioactive material into the cancer or the airway where that cancer lives. The material is usually removed after a short time. This treatment is often performed using a bronchoscope but may also be done during surgery.
- 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 to eliminate cancer cells.
Learn more about our services by visiting our Radiation Oncology website.
A surgical procedure is performed in order to remove the lung cancer and a margin of healthy tissue. Patients have several options, and the type of surgery can depend on a few factors:
- Your overall health
- The size of the tumor
- The type and stage of your cancer
The most common types of lung cancer surgery include:
- Lobectomy. This type of surgery removes the entire lobe of the lung with cancer.
- Minimally invasive video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). Markey’s lung cancer team also offers minimally invasive VATS, a surgical resection that aims to treat patients without opening the chest. This minimally invasive technique reduces risk of trauma post-surgery. Ask your doctors for more details on VATS surgery.
- Segmental resection. This type of surgery removes a segment of the lung’s lobe that contains cancer.
- Wedge resection. This type of surgery removes the portion of your lung that holds the tumor.