Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Radiotherapy for small cell lung cancer

Men and women discussing lung cancer

This page tells you about radiotherapy for small cell lung cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Radiotherapy to the lung

Your doctor may suggest radiotherapy after or alongside chemotherapy for small cell lung cancer to help stop the cancer coming back in the lung. Your doctor will be most likely to suggest this treatment if your cancer has shrunk a lot or disappeared after your chemotherapy. You have this type of radiotherapy over a period of about 3 to 6 weeks.

Radiotherapy to the brain

Your doctor may suggest that you have radiotherapy to the head because small cell lung cancer can spread to the brain. Giving radiotherapy makes it much less likely that this will happen. You may hear your doctor talk about prophylactic cranial radiotherapy or PCI. You have this treatment over 1 to 3 weeks. The side effects include tiredness, headaches, and feeling or being sick.

Radiotherapy to relieve symptoms

Your doctor might use radiotherapy to help control symptoms. For example, you might have radiotherapy to your chest to help control pain, breathlessness, coughing, or coughing up blood. Or you may have radiotherapy to a bone that is causing pain because the cancer has spread there.

You might also have radiotherapy to treat symptoms of lung cancer that has spread to the brain. Brain secondaries are also called cerebral metastases.

 

CR PDF Icon View a summary of treating lung cancer.

 

 

Radiotherapy to the lung

Your doctor may suggest radiotherapy after or alongside chemotherapy for early stage small cell lung cancer. It can help to stop the cancer coming back in the lung. Radiotherapy after chemotherapy is called adjuvant radiotherapy. Your doctor will be most likely to suggest this treatment if your cancer has shrunk a lot or disappeared after your chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy after chemotherapy is called sequential treatment. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy given together is called concomitant chemoradiation.

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment can get rid of small cell lung cancer completely for some people. So there is no sign of your cancer on scans or when you are examined. This is called a complete response. But sometimes the cancer can come back after treatment, so you will have regular check ups.

You may have the radiotherapy treatment to the chest once a day over about 3 to 6 weeks. Or you may have it twice a day for 3 weeks.

 

Radiotherapy to the brain

Your doctor may suggest that you have radiotherapy to the head. This is because small cell lung cancer can spread to the brain. Giving radiotherapy to the brain over 1 to 3 weeks makes it much less likely that this will happen. The radiotherapy can also help some people to live longer. This type of radiotherapy is called PCI or prophylactic cranial radiotherapy. 

Radiotherapy treatment to the brain can cause short term side effects that include tiredness, headaches and feeling or being sick for a few weeks. Your doctor can give medicines to reduce these effects. If you are very tired you may need to rest a lot and have help and support from your family or friends.

 

Radiotherapy to relieve symptoms

This type of treatment works very well for small cell lung cancer. So, as well as using radiotherapy with chemotherapy to try to cure the cancer, your doctor might use it to help control symptoms. For example, you might have radiotherapy to your chest to help control pain, breathlessness, coughing, or coughing up blood. Or you may have radiotherapy to a bone that is causing pain because the cancer has spread there.

You might also have radiotherapy to treat symptoms of lung cancer that has spread to the brain (brain secondaries). Brain secondaries are also called cerebral metastases. We have detailed information about controlling symptoms of lung cancer and treating secondary brain tumours.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 4 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 28 March 2014