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Innovations in planning and delivering radiation therapy have made this treatment safer and more effective than ever for lung cancer patients. For example, special four-dimensional computer programs allow doctors to create a very detailed "map" of the lungs for delivering radiation. In addition, a technology called image-guided radiotherapy gives doctors a "real time" picture of a tumor’s response, so they can make adjustments while delivering the radiation.
Typically, radiation for lung cancer is given daily for two to seven weeks. Yet, one of the newest radiation treatments, called stereotactic body radiotherapy, shortens treatment time substantially. This type of radiation delivers high, targeted doses of radiation — five to 10 times the dose delivered in traditional radiation therapy — so patients require fewer treatments. Unlike daily doses of traditional radiation spread out over several weeks, stereotactic body radiotherapy requires only three treatments.
This technique may be especially helpful for treating patients with lung cancer who are not candidates for surgery. Research suggests stereotactic body radiotherapy may be twice as effective at controlling lung tumors as traditional radiotherapy.