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Making the Decision to Have Radiation Treatment for Lung Cancer

Your doctor may suggest radiation for you in any of the following situations:

  • You have non-small cell lung cancer and are not able to have surgery.

  • You have limited stage small-cell lung cancer. Radiation therapy is usually used along with chemotherapy. You may also get radiation therapy as a preventive measure to keep lung cancer from spreading to your brain. This is called prophylactic cranial irradiation. Radiation is directed to your brain to prevent or treat any cancer cells that exist, but are too small to be seen with a CT scan or MRI.

  • You recently had surgery for lung cancer. Radiation helps kill any remaining cancer cells. You may also have chemotherapy in addition to radiation therapy. This is called adjuvant therapy.

  • You are getting ready to have surgery for lung cancer. You may also have chemotherapy in addition to radiation prior to surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy. The goal of both of these is to shrink the tumor so it is easier to take out with surgery.

  • You have complications from stage IV lung cancer, which is cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. These complications may include bone pain or nervous system problems. Radiation may ease these symptoms. Radiation used in this way is called palliative therapy because it can help you feel better but won’t cure your cancer.

For radiation therapy, you talk with a radiation oncologist, a doctor who specializes in both cancer and radiation. This doctor will tell you the type of radiation you need, at what dose, and for how long. During your visit, ask what you can expect to feel during and after the treatment.

Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 11/18/2013
© 2013 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.

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