Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. These abnormal cells do not carry out the functions of normal lung cells and do not develop into healthy lung tissue. As they grow, the abnormal cells can form tumors and interfere with the functioning of the lung, which provides oxygen to the body via the blood.
Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted treatments—alone or in combination—are used to treat lung cancer. Each of these types of treatments may cause different side effects.
Radiation therapy might be given at different times, depending on the purpose:
- As the main treatment of lung cancer (sometimes along with chemotherapy), especially if the lung tumor cannot be removed by surgery because of its size or location, if a person’s health is too poor for surgery, or if a person does not want surgery.
- After surgery (alone or along with chemotherapy) to try to kill any small deposits of cancer that surgery may have missed.
- Before surgery (usually along with chemotherapy) to try to shrink a lung tumor to make it easier to operate on.
- To relieve (palliate) symptoms of advanced lung cancer such as pain, bleeding, trouble swallowing, cough, or problems caused by spread to other organs such as the brain. For example, brachytherapy is most often used to help relieve blockage of large airways by cancer.
Newer radiation techniques help us treat lung cancers more accurately while lowering the radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissues. These techniques may offer better success rates and fewer side effects. We are pleased to be able to offer all of these types of treatment for lung cancer
Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT): 3D-CRT uses special computers to precisely map the location of the tumor(s). Radiation beams are shaped and aimed at the tumor(s) from several directions, which makes it less likely to damage normal tissues.
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): IMRT is an advanced form of 3D therapy. It uses a computer-driven machine that moves around the patient as it delivers radiation. Along with shaping the beams and aiming them at the tumor from several angles, the intensity (strength) of the beams can be adjusted to limit the dose reaching the most sensitive normal tissues. This technique is used most often if tumors are near important structures such as the spinal cord. Many major hospitals and cancer centers now use IMRT.
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT): SBRT, also known as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), is sometimes used to treat very early-stage lung cancers when surgery isn’t an option due to issues with the patient’s health or in patients who do not want surgery.