Chemotherapy is a lung cancer treatment that uses specialized drugs taken orally or intravenously to kill or stop cancer cells from growing. Often administered in addition to surgery and/or radiation therapy, chemotherapy can be used for patients diagnosed at various stages of the disease.
Unlike radiation and surgery that target a localized area in the body, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that enters the bloodstream and kills cancer cells all over the body. This makes it a useful treatment for cancers that have metastasized or spread to various organs.
There are a variety of ways that physicians use chemotherapy to treat lung cancer:
Before surgery: The patient is given chemotherapy before surgery in an effort to shrink the tumor.
In addition to surgery: Chemotherapy and radiation is often administered after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may be left behind.
Primary treatment: For patients with very advanced cancers or for those who are not healthy enough for surgery, chemotherapy, often with radiation, can be used as the primary treatment therapy. If a cure is not possible, this treatment may help to prolong the life of the patient.
Alleviate symptoms: If a patient is suffering from pain or other issues associated with lung cancer, like shortness of breath, chemotherapy can be used to alleviate those symptoms.
Chemotherapy drugs are usually given intravenously to lung cancer patients. Most often your physician will recommend a combination of two different drugs that will be administered in cycles. These cycles tend to last 3 to 4 weeks. Typically, a lung cancer patient will require at least 4-6 cycles.
The side effects associated with chemotherapy depend on the types of drugs administered as well your age, sex, and general health. Everyone responds differently to chemotherapy so it is difficult to determine which side effects you will experience. Your medical team will help you manage your side effects as they occur.
The Chest Center of the Carolinas at FirstHealth Moore Regional coordinates chemotherapy as well as many other lung cancer treatment options for patients and helps them navigate the complex cancer treatment process. Located in Pinehurst, NC, our lung cancer treatment coordinated through the Chest Center of the Carolinas is nationally recognized for its state-of-the-art facilities and cutting edge technology in the fight against cancer.