Chemotherapy, a medicine that is used to fight cancer, has the advantage of going throughout the body to treat all sites of the disease. It may be used before, with or after other lung cancer treatments, such as surgery or radiation.

Most patients with non-small cell lung cancer receive a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy. 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. Immunotherapy is also added to chemotherapy in the treatment of small cell lung cancer.  

'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 is sometimes given after surgery or radiation to help prevent tumor recurrence. The goal is to kill any microscopic cancer cells that may be present in the body and to prevent cancer from returning.

The addition of immunotherapy to chemotherapy is being examined in clinical trials in both the neoadjuvant (before surgery) and adjuvant (after surgery) setting.  

Help for Advanced Cancer

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

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