Lung Cancer Home > Treatments for Lung Cancer
Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Even after cancer has been removed from the lung, cancer cells may still be present in nearby tissue or elsewhere in the body. Chemotherapy may be used to control cancer growth or to relieve symptoms.
Most chemotherapy drugs used for treating lung cancer 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 taken in the form of a pill.
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. 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. Doctors also use radiation therapy (often combined with chemotherapy) as primary treatments for lung cancer instead of surgery. Radiation therapy may also be used to relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath.
When radiation therapy is used as a lung cancer treatment, the radiation most often comes from 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).
Photodynamic therapy (PDT), a type of laser therapy, involves the use of a special chemical that is injected into the bloodstream and absorbed by cells all over the body. The chemical rapidly leaves normal cells but remains in cancer cells for a longer time. A laser light aimed at the cancer activates the chemical, which then kills the cancer cells that have absorbed it.
Photodynamic therapy may be used to reduce symptoms of lung cancer; for example, to control bleeding or to relieve breathing problems due to blocked airways when the cancer cannot be removed through surgery. Photodynamic therapy may also be used for very small tumors in patients for whom the usual treatments are not appropriate.