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Radiation therapy is a form of treatment in which high-energy rays are used to kill cancer cells. In the treatment of lung cancer, this type of therapy may be used before surgery to shrink a tumor, or after surgery to destroy any cells that may remain. The radiation used for lung cancer may be administered using a machine or from implants placed near the tumor.
An Overview of Lung Cancer Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. When used to treat lung cancer, radiation therapy is directed to a limited area and affects the cancer cells only in that area.
Radiation therapy may be used before surgery to shrink a tumor, or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that remain in the treated area. In the treatment of lung cancer, radiation therapy is often combined with chemotherapy and used in place of surgery. Radiation therapy may also be used to relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath.
To receive radiation therapy, patients go to the hospital or clinic, often five days a week for several weeks.
Types of Radiation for Lung CancerWhen radiotherapy is used to treat lung cancer, radiation is usually administered using a machine (external radiation). The radiation can also come from an implant (a small container of radioactive material) placed directly into or near the tumor (internal radiation).
Side Effects of Radiation TherapyLike chemotherapy, radiation therapy used for lung cancer affects normal as well as cancerous cells. Side effects of radiation therapy depend mainly on the part of the body that is treated and the treatment dose.
When radiation therapy is used to treat patients with lung cancer, side effects may occur, such as the following:
- A dry, sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Skin changes at the site of treatment
- Loss of appetite.
Patients receiving radiation to the brain may have headaches, skin changes, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, or problems with memory and thought processes.