Lung Cancer Treatment Options
The side effects of lung cancer treatment depend on the type of
treatment and may be different for each person. Side effects are
often only temporary. Doctors and nurses can explain the possible
side effects of treatment, and they can suggest ways to help relieve
symptoms that may occur during and after treatment.
- Surgery for lung cancer is a major operation. After lung
surgery, air and fluid tend to collect in the chest. Patients
often need help turning over, coughing, and breathing deeply.
These activities are important for recovery because they help
expand the remaining lung tissue and get rid of excess air and
fluid. Pain or weakness in the chest and the arm and shortness
of breath are common side effects of lung cancer surgery. Patients
may need several weeks or months to regain their energy and strength.
- Chemotherapy affects normal as well as cancerous cells.
Side effects depend largely on the specific drugs and the dose
(amount of drug given). Common side effects of chemotherapy include
nausea and vomiting, hair loss, mouth sores, and fatigue.
- Radiation therapy, like chemotherapy, affects normal
as well as cancerous cells. Side effects of radiation therapy
depend mainly on the part of the body that is treated and the
treatment dose. Common side effects of radiation therapy are a
dry, sore throat; difficulty swallowing; fatigue; skin changes
at the site of treatment; and loss of appetite. Lung cancer patients
receiving radiation to the brain may have headaches, skin changes,
fatigue, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, or problems with memory
and thought processes.
- Photodynamic therapy makes the skin and eyes sensitive
to light for 6 weeks or more after treatment. Lung cancer patients
are advised to avoid direct sunlight and bright indoor light for
at least 6 weeks. If patients must go outdoors, they need to wear
protective clothing, including sunglasses. Other temporary side
effects of PDT may include coughing, trouble swallowing, and painful
breathing or shortness of breath. Lung cancer patients should
talk with their doctor about what to do if the skin becomes blistered,
red, or swollen.
Because of what has been learned in lung
cancer clinical trials, doctors are able to control,
lessen, or avoid many of the side effects of treatment.