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Internal radiotherapy for lung cancer

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About internal radiotherapy for lung cancer

Internal radiotherapy is called brachytherapy or endobronchial therapy. The radiotherapy is given inside the lung airway. It is sometimes used when a tumour is blocking your airway. It can shrink the blockage to help make your breathing easier and quieter. It can also help to control infections and bleeding caused by the tumour. Radiotherapy given in this way can be repeated 2 to 3 times.

Having internal radiotherapy treatment

You usually have a local anaesthetic and a medicine to make you drowsy called a sedative. The doctor puts a tube called a bronchoscope into your windpipe, either through your nose or your mouth. They then put a thin tube called a catheter through the bronchoscope and into your lung. 

The radiographers connect the catheter to the brachytherapy machine. A small radioactive ball radiates the cancer cells from inside the lung. The treatment does not hurt. Most of the radiotherapy dose goes straight to the cancer and very little reaches healthy tissue. This means there are few side effects. Your throat may feel a bit sore for a few days. And you may find that you have a cough and produce more phlegm temporarily.

 

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About internal radiotherapy for lung cancer

Internal radiotherapy is also called brachytherapy or endobronchial therapy. The radiotherapy is given from inside the lung airway. It is sometimes used when a tumour is blocking, or partly blocking, your airway. If an airway is blocked this can make you feel breathless and may cause a particular type of noisy breathing called stridor.

Internal radiotherapy can shrink the blockage to help make your breathing easier and quieter. It can also help to control infections and bleeding caused by the tumour. You might have internal radiotherapy in combination with other treatments to relieve a blocked airway.

Radiotherapy given in this way can be repeated 2 or 3 times if necessary.

 

Having internal radiotherapy treatment

You usually have a local anaesthetic and a medicine to make you drowsy called a sedative. You also have a local anaesthetic sprayed at the back of your throat so it is numb.  

Your doctor puts a long, thin, flexible tube called a bronchoscope either down your nose, or into your mouth, through to your windpipe. A thin tube called a catheter goes through the bronchoscope so it is close to the tumour. You have X-rays taken to make sure that the catheter is in the right place. The bronchoscope is removed but the tube stays in the airway.

The catheter is connected to the brachytherapy machine. You're alone in the room for the treatment, but staff watch you on a closed circuit screen outside. This lasts a few minutes and does not hurt. A small radioactive ball travels through the machine into the catheter. The treatment gives radiotherapy directly to the cancer cells from inside, while giving little radiation to healthy cells.

The staff come into the room when the treatment is over. They disconnect you from the machine and gently remove the catheter. Once the radioactive ball has gone back into the machine there is no radiation in the room. You are not radioactive after the treatment so you are safe to be with other people.

Diagram showing how you have internal radiotherapy for lung cancer

 

Side effects of internal radiotherapy

The radioactive source only gives radiotherapy to a very small area inside your airway. It does not reach much healthy tissue. This means that there are few side effects. 

Your throat may feel a bit sore for a few days after the treatment. If you are having it to relieve a blockage in your airway you may find that you have a cough. You may also produce more phlegm temporarily and find you feel breathless for a few days.

 

For more information

Find out about

Internal radiotherapy

Radiotherapy

Side effects of lung cancer radiotherapy

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Updated: 28 March 2014