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Types of treatments

Depending on the stage of your lung cancer, your prognosis, and your preferences, your healthcare team may prescribe one or more of the following treatments. Please be aware that the side effects listed below are just some of the side effects experienced. Be sure to ask your treatment team about any side effects you should be aware of depending on the procedure.

SURGERY

The cancer is removed along with some of the healthy tissue surrounding it. There are different procedure options depending on the size, stage, and extent to which the cancer has spread. The surgeon could remove as little as a small section of the lung to removing an entire lung.

Side effects:

Some bleeding or risk of infection is possible. Shortness of breath is to be expected, but may improve over time. Meeting with a respiratory, or breathing, specialist could help. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.

CHEMOTHERAPY

This treatment uses one or more of about a dozen drugs to kill cancer cells in NSCLC to keep them from growing. Sometimes it's given before surgery to possibly help shrink the tumour. It can also be used after surgery to possibly kill any remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, or injected into your bloodstream through a vein. It's usually given in regular treatments in a hospital, clinic or in the doctor's office over a specific duration of time. Your treatment team will determine the right duration of chemotherapy.

Side effects:

Some side effects include loss of hair, nausea/vomiting, injection site reactions, shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pain, liver problems/toxicity, low blood cell count, weakness, fever, infections, being tired, diarrhea, or constipation. Depending on the medicine, you may have other side effects such as sensitivity to heat or cold, or nerve pain that feels like burning or tingling mostly in the hands and feet. Most of these will go away after therapy is completed but may be long lasting in some people. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.

RADIATION THERAPY

This treatment uses energy beams similar to x-rays, but in a strong, concentrated form. Radiation therapy may target the cancer from outside of the body or can be placed inside a needle, or catheter, and put into your body to help attack the cancer.

Side effects:

These will usually go away after the treatment is over. Side effects may vary depending on where and how the radiation is given. They include some hair loss where treatment was, tiredness, nausea/vomiting, and skin changes such as a mild rash, blisters, or peeling. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.


TARGETED DRUG THERAPY

Targeted treatments are determined by the results of a biopsy of the cancer cells. This test is called molecular profiling or mutation testing, among other names. To learn more about mutation testing, please see the section "What Mutations Are Tested."

Details of the tumour biopsy give the doctor information on how to possibly target specific mutations, or abnormal cells. There are many types of targeted therapies that may be used. These options block the activity of a variety of proteins involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Blocking these specific proteins may stop or slow the cancer growth and in some cases, help shrink the tumour.

Side effects:

The most common side effects of targeted therapy include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal liver function test, shortness of breath, cough, respiratory infections, mouth irritation, stomach pain, bleeding from the stomach or intestine, changes in weight and appetite, changes in vision, skin rash, dry skin, changes in nails, problems with wounds healing and blood clotting, heart rhythm disturbances and in some cases, liver toxicity and failure. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.

PALLIATIVE CARE

Palliative treatment helps to ease the pain and some symptoms of people with cancer, whether or not the cancer is treated. Sometimes this care is confused with hospice, or end-of-life care. Hospice is a specific type of palliative care for people who likely have six months or less to live. It's not uncommon for palliative care to be used with other cancer therapies for support. It can make people more comfortable during other treatments they may be having. This may help them complete the course of treatment their doctors prescribe. Your doctor will tell you about the side effects of the specific medicine you are prescribed.