Palliative radiotherapy for lung cancer

Internal radiotherapy is when treatment is given by placing radioactive material inside the body.

If the cancer is blocking one of the airways, you may have a type of internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy).

Most people have only one session of treatment. It is usually done in an operating theatre. The doctor passes a thin tube (catheter) down the nose or throat into the lung, using a bronchoscope. They put a small piece of radioactive material inside the catheter, next to the cancer. They leave it in place for a few minutes to give a dose of radiation to the cancer. Then they remove it together with the catheter.

We have more information about internal radiotherapy.

Palliative radiotherapy

Sometimes people have external radiotherapy to shrink the cancer and improve their symptoms. It can help them feel better so they can do more. This is called palliative radiotherapy. It is usually given when the cancer:

  • is advanced in the lung
  • has spread to other parts of the body.

It may be given to improve

  • breathlessness
  • chest pain
  • a cough
  • coughing up blood.

Some people have just one session of treatment. Other people have it over a few days. Or they might have a higher dose over one or 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.

Back to Radiotherapy

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.