Radiation Therapy

Key points

  • There are different types of radiation for lung cancer. All of them kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.
  • Sometimes radiation is used to relieve lung cancer symptoms.

Lung Cancer radiation therapy uses powerful, high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.  Radiation may come from outside the body (external) or from radioactive materials placed directly inside the lung cancer tumor (internal/implant). External radiation is used most often. The radiation is aimed at the lung cancer tumor and kills the cancer cells only in that area of the lungs.

Radiation can be used before lung cancer surgery to shrink the tumor.  It may also be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells left in the lungs.  Sometimes external radiation is used as the main type of lung cancer treatment. This is often the case for people who may not be healthy enough to have surgery or whose cancer has spread too far to have surgery.  Radiation therapy for lung cancer can also be used to relieve symptoms caused by the cancer, such as pain, bleeding or blockage of airways by the tumor.

Doctors use several different radiation techniques to administer therapy.

Radiation Techniques for Lung Cancer

Possible Side Effects of Radiation

*Side effects vary based on where the radiation field is located

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

Click here to download a list of suggested questions.