Depending on the stage of your cancer, there are different treatment options available. Your treatment team will work with you to find the treatment that is right for you. A type of doctor that may be on your treatment team is a medical oncologist, who specializes in treating cancer. If a medical oncologist is not already on your treatment team, talk to your doctor about if you should see one.
The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor from the body. It works best for solid tumors that are contained in one area. Surgery to remove some of the tumor can also be used to help other treatments work better or to help relieve symptoms, like pain or pressure.
How it’s given: Chemotherapy is given as an infusion into the bloodstream. Because blood travels throughout the body, it allows the treatment to travel anywhere in the body that the cancer has spread. Chemotherapy can also be given as a pill that you take by mouth.
Typically, chemotherapy is given in cycles, with 1 to 3 days of treatment, followed by a rest period to help the body recover. Chemotherapy cycles may happen for 3 to 4 weeks.
How it works: Chemotherapy attacks all fast-growing cells to get at cancer cells. But that can cause certain side effects. These include:
How it’s given: Radiation therapy uses a machine that aims radiation at cancer from outside the body. It can feel similar to getting an x-ray—it is painless and lasts only a few minutes. Radiation is usually given 5 days a week, for up to 5 to 7 weeks.
How it works: Radiation therapy targets DNA in cancer cells to keep them from growing. Radiation can cause side effects that are similar to those of chemotherapy. But for lung cancer, radiation to the chest can cause additional side effects. These include:
If surgery is not an option, chemotherapy in combination with radiation may be your first step in treatment. This is known as “chemoradiation therapy” or CRT.
Typically, CRT is given for 6 to 7 weeks, but depending on how you receive it, it could be longer or shorter. You can receive CRT either "sequentially" or "concurrently." Your doctor will determine the best approach to CRT for you and how long you will receive it. There is a chance you may only receive chemotherapy or radiation alone.
When starting any new treatment, it’s normal to think about side effects. That’s why it’s important to ask your treatment team what to expect and make sure to talk to them if you have any side effects.
If surgery is your first treatment, it may be the only treatment you need. But it is also very common to also have other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation. Your treatment team will decide what is right for you.
After chemotherapy, radiation, or CRT, your doctor may prescribe additional treatment and will monitor you every 3 to 6 months. During this time, he or she will start running periodic scans and tests. You may feel some anxiety, or as some patients call it, “scanxiety,” when you go in for the scan or when you’re waiting for the results. So try to do what you can to stay busy. Make plans with your family and friends. You may want to take steps to get back to doing some of your favorite activities.
If you've completed or almost finished treatment, you may feel different emotions. It's a big milestone, and you may feel relieved. Keep the lines of communication open with your treatment team. There may be potential treatment options available. Learn more
Examples of low-impact exercise include:
During treatment, some days you may not have a lot of energy, and that’s okay. If you’re feeling this way, it’s important to take things slow. Take some time to relax by putting on a movie or your favorite TV show. Or try reading a book or magazine.
It’s important to listen to your body. If you are feeling tired, it’s okay to sleep. You can also try to save your energy for important activities. Take short naps that are no longer than an hour throughout the day instead of one long period. Drinking fluids and eating well can also help maintain your energy.