Chemotherapy

Key Points

  • Chemotherapy for lung cancer is used at different points in treatment to achieve different goals like shrinking the tumor, killing any leftover cancer cells or relieving lung cancer symptoms.
  • It is used at different points in treatment to achieve different goals like shrinking the tumor, killing any leftover cancer cells or relieving symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy kills normal, healthy cells too, which causes side effects.

Sometimes several drugs are given at the same time. Lung cancer chemotherapy can be the main type of treatment or it can be used along with surgery and/or radiation therapy. Sometimes lung cancer chemotherapy is used to shrink the tumor before other treatment. Sometimes it is used to kill any cancers cells that are left after the first treatment. It may also be used in later stages of the disease to relieve cancer symptoms.

Most of these drugs are either taken as a pill or given by IV (intravenous) line. The chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer is given in cycles. Each period of treatment is followed by a recovery period.

Chemotherapy can also kill normal cells like blood, skin and nerve cells. When normal cells die, it can cause side effects. There is the promise of a type of chemotherapy that only targets cancer cells. This type of targeted therapy avoids healthy cells and reduces side effects.

You can hear Dr. Edward Kim discuss the differences between traditional chemotherapy and targeted therapy in the Ask the Expert program.

Possible Side Effects of chemotherapy for lung cancer

Patients can also have long-term effects from lung cancer drugs. Some of those lung cancer treatment side effects include premature menopause, infertility or heart or lung damage. There are treatments available to help prevent or lessen the side effects of chemotherapy for lung cancer. Discuss these options with your doctor.

Discuss concerns, possible side effects and any effects that you experience with your doctor.

Click here to download a list of suggested questions.