Palliative radiotherapy for lung cancer

Sometimes radiotherapy is given to shrink the cancer, reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life. This is usually when the cancer is very advanced in the lung and/or has spread to other parts of the body. This is called palliative radiotherapy.

You can have radiotherapy to the chest to improve breathlessness, chest pain, a cough or coughing up blood. It shrinks the tumours and helps to reduce your symptoms. You may have a short course over a few days or sometimes a higher dose is given over two weeks. Your cancer doctor or nurse will explain more about this.

Doctors may use radiotherapy to treat superior vena cava obstruction. This is when the cancer is pressing on a vein in the chest and blocking the blood flow.

Radiotherapy can also be given to relieve pain if the cancer has spread to areas such as the bones. This can usually be given over one or two treatments.

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Radiotherapy explained

Radiotherapy may be used alongside chemotherapy to treat small cell lung cancer. It can also be used on its own to ease symptoms.