Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer

Southern Tasmania Area Health ServicesTasmanian Health Service - Southern Region

Patient Information Brochure

Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer


Lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in males and equal deaths from breast cancer in females.

About 244 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year in Tasmania.

Treating lung cancer

The following information is provided to help you make an informed decision about your treatment.

Lung cancer treatment depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the lung cancer and your overall health.

The main treatment options are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Understanding radiation therapy

Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, is the use of high-energy x-rays to safely and effectively kill cancer cells.

Radiation oncologists use radiation therapy to try to cure cancer, to control tumour growth or to relieve symptoms, such as pain.

Radiation therapy works within cancer cells by damaging their ability to multiply. When these cells die, the body naturally eliminates them.

A radiation-delivery machine (called a linear accelerator) focuses the radiation beam to a precise location for an exact period of time.

Radiation is given in daily treatments, Monday through Friday, for several weeks.

Possible side effects

The following side effects may occur during, or within a few weeks of finishing treatment:

  • Fatigue or 'feeling tired' is common.
  • The skin in the area being treated could become red and sore (like sunburn).
  • The treatment may cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Your throat may become sore, ulcerated, dry and you may notice a change in taste. Avoid foods that are high in acid or spicy. Avoid smoking and alcohol. It is a good idea to see a dietitian.
  • Hair loss in the treated area. Your hair will grow back after completion of treatment but may be thinner.

Your doctor or nurse will provide advice and treatment to deal with these side effects.

Long term side effects that may be permanent

  • Difficulty swallowing (uncommon)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Changes in bone strength (may be at risk of rib fracture)
  • Damage to the spinal cord (very rare)
  • Arm numbness and weakness (rare)
  • Fatigue

Our nurses will be available to assist you throughout your treatment and after completion of your treatment. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Helpful websites

Health insite
www.healthinsite.gov.au

Cancer institute of NSW
www.cancerinstitute.org.au

Cancer Council Tasmania
www.cancertas.org.au

Support Services

The following services are available to assist you during your treatment. Please ask staff for further details.

  • Social work
  • Dietitian
  • Cancer council transport
  • Look Good Feel Better program

Telephone Numbers

W.P Holman Clinic Reception
(03) 6166 8000

Radiation Therapy Scheduling
(03) 6166 2747


First Published: February 2010

Reviewed: February 2012