Chemotherapy may be used before, during, or after other lung cancer treatments, such as surgery or radiation.

Most patients with non-small cell lung cancer receive a combination of chemotherapy drugs.

For patients with small cell cancer — a smaller percentage of people with the disease — chemotherapy is also a mainstay treatment. Chemotherapy can dramatically shrink these fast-growing tumors, sometimes in a matter of weeks.

'Neoadjuvant' & 'Adjuvant' Therapy

When chemotherapy is used before surgery or radiation, this is called neoadjuvant therapy. For example, neoadjuvant chemotherapy may be used in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, specifically stage III disease. This type of treatment helps shrink the tumor before surgery or radiation, to increase the likelihood of successful treatment.

For patients with non-small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy medicines are sometimes given for several months after surgery or radiation. This adjuvant therapy has revolutionized the treatment of lung cancer. The goal is to kill any microscopic cancer cells that may be present in the body and prevent cancer from returning.

Studies suggest that in some patients, such as those with non-small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy after surgery can increase the five-year survival rate by as much as 10 or 12 percent.

Help for Advanced Cancer

If cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as in stage IV disease, chemotherapy is an option to prolong survival, reduce pain and other symptoms, and improve a patient’s quality of life.

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