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Treatment Options


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. One or more chemotherapy drugs may be given through a vein in your arm (intravenously) or taken orally. A combination of drugs usually is given in a series of treatments over a period of weeks or months, with breaks in between so that you can recover.

Chemotherapy can be used as a first line treatment for lung cancer or as additional treatment after surgery. In some cases, chemotherapy can be used to lessen side effects of your cancer.

Targeted Drug Therapy 

Targeted therapies are newer cancer treatments that work by targeting specific abnormalities in cancer cells. Targeted therapy options for treating lung cancer include:

  • Bevacizumab (Avastin). Bevacizumab stops a tumor from creating a new blood supply. Blood vessels that connect to tumors can supply oxygen and nutrients to the tumor, allowing it to grow. Bevacizumab is usually used in combination with chemotherapy and is approved for advanced and recurrent non-small cell lung cancer. Bevacizumab carries a risk of bleeding, blood clots and high blood pressure.
  • Erlotinib (Tarceva). Erlotinib blocks chemicals that signal the cancer cells to grow and divide. Erlotinib is approved for people with advanced and recurrent non-small cell lung cancer who haven't been helped by chemotherapy or who have tumors that are positive for epidermal growth factor receptor mutations.  Cells taken from your lung cancer will be tested to see whether this medication is likely to help you. Erlotinib side effects include a skin rash and diarrhea. Smokers are less likely to benefit from erlotinib than are nonsmokers.
  • Crizotinib (Xalkori). Crizotinib blocks chemicals that allow cancer cells to grow out of control and live longer than normal cells. Crizotinib is approved for use in people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer whose cancer cells have a particular genetic mutation. ( ALK {'anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene'}) A special laboratory test using your cancer cells determines whether your cells have this certain genetic mutation. Crizotinib side effects include nausea and vision problems, such as double vision or blurred vision.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be directed at your lung cancer from outside your body (external beam radiation) or it can be put inside needles, seeds or catheters and placed inside your body near the cancer (brachytherapy).

Radiation therapy can be used alone or with other lung cancer treatments. Sometimes it's administered at the same time as chemotherapy.

For people with lung cancers that are very small, one option may be stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT).  This form of radiation aims many beams of radiation from different angles at the lung cancer. Stereotactic body radiotherapy treatment is typically completed in one or a few treatments. In certain cases, it may be used in place of surgery for small tumors. 

Support Group

Many patients respond differently to the diagnosis of cancer depending on the individual's situation and support network. A therapist is available to provide counseling services, to act as a patient advocate, and help patients use their own resources to be a partner alongside their health care team during the treatment of the cancer. 

Side-by-Side Wellness Program

The SIU Clinical Trials database