Radiation therapy is the use of
high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come
from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy) or from putting
materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes) through thin plastic tubes
into the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy,
also called brachytherapy). Radiation therapy is often used in combination with
surgery or chemotherapy or both.
People who cannot have surgery may have stereotactic
body radiation therapy (SBRT). In SBRT, high doses of radiation therapy are
targeted to the cancer. One form of SBRT that may be used to treat tumors that have spread to the brain is called gamma knife radiosurgery. This is a radiation treatment (rather than surgery) that uses a machine to target radiation beams from many different angles all focused on the tumor area.
uses a small needle inserted through the skin and into the tumor. Energy passes
through the needle into the tumor. This heats and kills cancer cells. It also
closes up the little blood vessels in the area so there is less
Laser therapy uses a narrow beam
of very intense light to destroy cancer cells. Laser therapy usually is used as
palliative care to remove tumors that block the
airway. Laser therapy does not cure lung cancer.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
uses laser light and a special light-activated substance (Photofrin) to kill
cancer cells. It is approved for palliative treatment to destroy tumors that
block the airway but it does not cure the lung cancer. Few lung cancers are
treated with this therapy. Surgery is still the standard treatment for
early-stage lung cancer.
In clinical trials, PDT appears to help
relieve coughing, shortness of breath, and coughing up bloody mucus. Additional
research is being done.
Cryosurgery (also called
cryoablation) freezes the tumor and kills it. Cryosurgery for lung cancer is
experimental and is being used only in certain
Cautery is used to burn (cauterize) and
remove tumors that block the airway.
What to think about
Radiation may cause
Radiation therapy may be used to prevent small
lung cancer from growing in your brain. This is called
prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI).
Sometimes radiation therapy may be given
during your surgery. In this procedure, radiation is focused directly on the
tumor during surgery and affects as little healthy tissue as possible.
Radiation therapy also may be used as
palliative care to:
- Shrink tumors that make it hard for you to swallow.
- Reduce tumors that block your airway and make it hard for you
- Relieve pain from cancer that has spread to your bones or
Other Treatment Choices