Chemotherapy | American Lung Association

Location Select your location

Chemotherapy

Learn more

Hear Dr. Edward Kim discuss the differences between traditional chemotherapy and targeted therapy.

Watch video

Key Points

  • Chemotherapy for lung cancer is used at different points in treatment to achieve different goals such as shrinking the tumor, killing any leftover cancer cells or relieving lung cancer symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy kills normal, healthy cells too, which causes side effects.
  • Help prepare for chemotherapy by learning what to expect and using this worksheet to stay organized.

Sometimes several drugs are given at the same time. Lung cancer chemotherapy can be the main type of treatment, or it can be used along with surgery and/or radiation therapy. Sometimes lung cancer chemotherapy is used to shrink the tumor before other treatment. Sometimes it is used to kill any cancers cells that remain after the first treatment. It may also be used in later stages of the disease to relieve cancer symptoms.

Most of these drugs are either taken as a pill or given by intravenous (IV) line. The chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer is given in cycles. Each treatment period is followed by a recovery period.

Chemotherapy also can kill normal cells including blood, skin and nerve cells. When normal cells die, it can cause side effects. There is the promise of a type of chemotherapy that only targets cancer cells. This type of targeted therapy avoids healthy cells and reduces side effects.

    Resources
    PDF Download

    Chemotherapy Before, During, and After: A patient planning worksheet

    Download
    Webpage Resource

    Chemotherapy: What to Expect

    Learn more

    Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 3, 2016.

    Sign up for updates

    Stay up to date on the latest news and information on the fight against lung cancer.

    Ask An Expert

    Questions about your lung health? Need help finding healthcare? Call 1-800-LUNGUSA.

    Get help
    We need your generous support

    Make a difference by delivering research, education and advocacy to those impacted by lung disease.

    What is LUNG FORCE?

    LUNG FORCE unites women and their loved ones across the country to stand together in the fight against lung cancer.

    Get involved
    Join the fight for healthy lungs and healthy air.
    Donate Now.