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Chemotherapy

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ChemotherapyChemotherapy drugs are medications that travel through the bloodstream to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Unlike surgery and radiation, which are used to treat disease locally, chemotherapy is systemic; it can affect cancer cells throughout the body. A number of different chemotherapy drugs are used for lung cancer, including:

Generally, one platinum-containing agent (cisplatin or carboplatin) is combined with a non-platinum drug. Additional or different combinations of therapies may be prescribed by your doctor depending on her/his expert opinion on what is likely to work best for you. Still more drugs are in development.

These drugs are administered through the veins (intravenously or through an IV) or taken orally as pills. Usually, chemotherapy drugs are given for four to six “cycles.” Generally, each cycle is about three to four weeks in length and chemotherapy may be given one or several days within the cycle. However, depending on your particular cancer and overall health, your doctors may recommend a different schedule for your treatment. 

Continuing a drug or using a different drug after the initial course of chemotherapy, often called maintenance therapy, can help treat the cancer and may prevent it from spreading. However, not every person can manage the side effects of these drugs so soon after initial treatment. Your treatment team will work with you to decide whether maintenance therapy is right for you.

Many people are concerned about the side effects of chemotherapy. It is important to know that different types of cancers are treated with different types of chemotherapy, and that chemotherapy has changed a lot over the years. If someone tells you what they or a friend went through, remember that your cancer and your treatment – and therefore your experience – may be very different. Learn more about managing treatment side effects.

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This information is not designed to be a substitute for medical advice provided by your treatment team.
Last updated 7/2015

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