Radiotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer

Radiotherapy is a main treatment for non-small cell lung cancer.

It may be given:

  • to try to cure early cancer if you cannot have an operation (called radical radiotherapy)
  • after surgery to reduce the risk of cancer coming back (called adjuvant radiotherapy)
  • at the same time as chemotherapy when the cancer is locally advanced (called chemoradiation)
  • to control symptoms when lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body (called palliative radiotherapy).

Our section about radiotherapy has more information about the treatment and its side effects.

Having radiotherapy

The treatment is given in the hospital radiotherapy department.

The number of treatments you have, and the length of time they take, will depend on the stage of the cancer and the aim of the treatment.

If you are having radical or adjuvant radiotherapy, you usually have a course of radiotherapy for between 4–7 weeks. This will be as a series of short daily sessions. Each treatment takes 10–15 minutes and they are usually given Monday–Friday with a break at the weekend. Sometimes radiotherapy is given three times a day over a shorter number of weeks. This is called CHART radiotherapy.

If you are having palliative radiotherapy, you will have a shorter course of treatment, which will usually only lasts up to about two weeks. Treatment is given Monday–Friday with a break at the weekend.

Back to Radiotherapy explained

What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. This treatment aims to treat cancer or relieve symptoms.

Possible long-term effects

Side effects of radiotherapy for lung cancer can happen many months or years after treatment. These are known as long-term effects.

Who might I meet?

You will meet many different specialists before, during and after radiotherapy treatment.