Shedding Light on Lung Cancer Treatment: Understanding Radiation Therapy

November 28, 2023

A lung cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, but advancements in medical treatments offer hope for effective care. Radiation therapy is a critical component in treating many stages of lung cancer. Radiation can be given in various forms, commonly including Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) and conventional radiation treatment.

Radiation Therapy in Lung Cancer Treatment

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to target and destroy cancer cells. It can be used to precisely target small lung tumors to kill cancer, eliminate remaining cancer cells after surgery, work in combination with chemotherapy to cure lung cancer, or manage symptoms in cases where a cure isn’t possible. For lung cancer, radiation therapy can be a standalone treatment or part of a comprehensive approach involving surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies.

Conventional Radiation Treatment

Conventional radiation treatment involves delivering radiation from outside the body using a machine called a linear accelerator. Treatment is delivered as an outpatient, takes only minutes, and is completely painless. Radiation is often used in combination with chemotherapy, which sensitizes the cells to die from radiation. This approach is used for larger tumors or when the cancer is spread throughout the lung. Radiation given with chemotherapy is delivered in smaller doses over several sessions to minimize damage to healthy tissue.

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

SBRT is a form of radiation therapy that delivers high doses of radiation to the tumor with extreme precision. This approach is suitable for smaller lung tumors when surgery isn’t an option. SBRT typically involves fewer sessions, often just 3 to 5, making it a convenient and effective choice for appropriate patients.

Benefits of Radiation Therapy in Lung Cancer

  • Local Treatment: Radiation therapy focuses on the tumor site, sparing surrounding healthy tissue as much as possible.

  • Minimized Invasiveness: For patients who can’t undergo surgery, radiation therapy offers a less invasive alternative, often with similar cure rates.

  • Combined Approach: Radiation therapy can complement other treatments like surgery and chemotherapy, providing a comprehensive strategy. Your healthcare team will work together to design a plan most appropriate for you.

  • Palliative Care: In advanced cases, radiation therapy can help alleviate symptoms such as pain and difficulty breathing.

Potential Side Effects

Radiation therapy can have side effects, but they’re often manageable. Most patients are able to drive themselves to appointments, and continue normal daily activities, including working. Common side effects may include fatigue, difficulty swallowing, and temporary chest discomfort. These are temporary, and resolve after treatment. Your healthcare team will monitor your progress and offer strategies to alleviate these effects.

Radiation therapy, including SBRT and conventional radiation treatment, plays a crucial role in lung cancer treatment. It offers effective options for managing tumors, alleviating symptoms, and enhancing overall quality of life. By working closely with your healthcare team and understanding the nuances of radiation therapy, you’re taking an active role in your lung cancer treatment journey, moving forward with strength, hope, and the assurance that modern medical science is on your side.

To learn more contact our care team today at 256-319-5400.