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Radiation Therapy


Dr. Flemings
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Dr. Mansfield, can you tell us more about radiation therapy for lung cancer?

Dr. Mansfield
Of course, Dr. Flemings. There are two types of radiation therapy: external radiation and internal radiation. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation uses a radioactive substance sealed in wires that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

Stereotactic body radiation therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery are types of external radiation therapy given for non-small cell lung cancer.

In stereotactic body radiation therapy, special equipment is used to place the patient in the same position for each radiation therapy. Once a day for several days, a radiation machine aims targeted radiation directly at the tumor. Having the patient in the same position for each treatment reduces the risk of damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Stereotactic radiosurgery is used to treat lung cancer that has spread to the brain. A rigid head frame is attached to the skull to keep the head still during the radiation treatment. Despite the name, this procedure does not involve surgery.

Internal radiation is used for tumors in the bronchi. Wires containing a radioactive substance are delivered directly to the tumor through a thin, flexible tube, called an endoscope, that is passed through the mouth and throat to the area with cancer.

For small cell cancer, the only radiation treatment used is external radiation. It may be used as palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life, or it may be used to lessen the risk of cancer spreading to the brain.