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For some people with lung cancer, chemotherapy may be an effective treatment. It uses drugs to halt the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often an outpatient treatment; however, depending on the drugs used and the person's health, a hospital stay may be required. Furthermore, it may be given alone or combined with other treatment methods. Side effects can include an increased risk of infection, a lack of energy, hair loss, nausea, and mouth sores.
An Overview of Chemotherapy for Lung CancerChemotherapy is a lung cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Doctors also use chemotherapy to help reduce pain and other problems caused by lung cancer. This treatment may be given alone, with radiation, or with surgery and radiation.
In most cases of lung cancer, chemotherapy drugs are administered by injection directly into a vein (IV) or by means of a catheter, a thin tube that is placed into a large vein and remains there as long as it is needed. Some anticancer drugs are given in the form of a pill.
Chemotherapy is usually performed on an outpatient basis at the hospital, clinic, doctor's office, or home. However, depending on which drugs are given and the person's general health, he or she may need to stay in the hospital.
Side Effects of ChemotherapyThe side effects of chemotherapy for lung cancer depend mainly on the drugs and the doses the person receives. As with other types of treatment for lung cancer, side effects are different for each person.
Chemotherapy affects rapidly dividing cells throughout the body, including blood cells. Blood cells fight infection, help the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When anticancer drugs damage blood cells, people are more likely to get infections, may bruise or bleed easily, and may have less energy.
Cells in hair roots and cells that line the digestive tract also divide rapidly. As a result, people may lose their hair and may have other side effects such as poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, or mouth sores.
Usually, these side effects go away gradually during the recovery periods between treatment sessions or after treatment is complete. The healthcare team can suggest ways to relieve these problems.