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Side Effects of Treatment

The side effects of lung cancer treatment depend on the type of treatment and may be different for each person. Side effects are often only temporary. Doctors and nurses can explain the possible side effects of treatments, and they can suggest ways to help relieve symptoms that may occur during and after treatment.
Side Effects of Surgery
Surgery for lung cancer is a major operation. After lung surgery, air and fluid tend to collect in the chest. Patients often need help turning over, coughing, and breathing deeply. These activities are important for recovery because they help expand the remaining lung tissue and get rid of excess air and fluid. Pain or weakness in the chest and the arm and shortness of breath are common side effects of lung cancer surgery. Patients may need several weeks or months to regain their energy and strength.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Treatments involving chemotherapy affect normal cells as well as cancerous cells. Side effects of these treatments depend largely on the specific drugs used and the dosage given. Common side effects of chemotherapy include:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Fatigue.
Side Effects of Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy, like chemotherapy, 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.
Common side effects of radiation therapy include:
  • A dry, sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Skin changes at the site of treatment
  • Loss of appetite.


Patients receiving radiation to the brain may experience headaches, skin changes, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, or problems with memory and thought processes.

Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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