Chemotherapy means the use of special drugs to destroy cancer cells throughout the body.  Often several drugs are given at the same time.  Depending on the type and stage of lung cancer, chemotherapy may be the main type of treatment or used along with surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy may be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells still present in nearby tissue or elsewhere in the body.  It may also be used in more advanced stages of the disease to relieve cancer symptoms. 

Most of these drugs are either taken as a pill or given by IV (intravenous) line, and the treatment is given in cycles with each period of treatment followed by a recovery period.

All chemotherapy drugs can have side effects.  Temporary side effects may include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, mouth sores, and hair loss.  Because chemotherapy can damage the blood-producing cells in the bone marrow, a drop in white blood cells can increase your risk for infection.  Another kind of blood cells called platelets help to control bleeding and you may experience increased bleeding or bruising after minor injuries.  A drop in red blood cells may result in you feeling tired.

Patients can also have long-term effects from cancer drugs, and those include premature menopause, infertility or heart or lung damage.

There are treatments available to help prevent or lessen the side effects of chemotherapy.  Be sure you discuss any concerns you may have about chemotherapy and possible side effects before, during and after your treatment cycles, and especially any effects that you do experience.


Early detection of lung cancer can increase survival rates. Call the Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA or talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening.