uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body in order to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given either alone or along with
radiation therapy. When given alone, it is given in a higher dose designed to kill off cancer cells. When given along with radiation therapy, it is delivered at a lower dose and is designed to make the cancer more sensitive to the radiation.
Chemotherapy may be used:
Before surgery—to shrink the tumor and decrease the amount of tissue that needs to be removed
After surgery—to kill any remaining cancer cells and decrease the risk of return
To help relieve symptoms of metastatic cancer and extend survival time
Chemotherapy Drugs and Delivery
There are a variety of chemotherapy drugs. The choice and combination of drugs will be based on your particular cancer and reaction to drugs. Chemotherapy drugs for lung cancer may include:
Chemotherapy is most often given through an IV, but some forms can be given by mouth. It is delivered in cycles over a set period of time. A medical oncologist will determine how many cycles of chemotherapy are needed and what combination of drugs will work best.
Side Effects and Management
Though the drugs are designed to target cancer cells, they can affect healthy cells as well. The death of cancer cells and impact on healthy cells can cause a range of side effects. A medical oncologist will work to find the best drug combination and dosage to have the most impact on the cancer cells and minimal side effects on healthy tissue. Side effects or complications from chemotherapy may include:
Increased frequency and urgency of bowel and bladder function
Itching and skin rash
A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects including medication, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments. In some cases, the chemotherapy regimen may be adjusted to reduce severe side effects. The earlier the side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.
Chemotherapy. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/patients/treatment/types-of-treatment/chemotherapy.html. Updated November 3, 2016. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-small-cell-lung-cancer/treating/chemotherapy.html. Updated May 16, 2016. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Chemotherapy for small cell lung cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/small-cell-lung-cancer/treating/chemotherapy.html. Updated May 16, 2016. Accessed August 30, 2017.
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.