Medical oncologists, like SCCA's Renato Martins, MD, may recommend chemotherapy to treat your lung cancer. Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, your doctors may recommend chemotherapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. There is emerging evidence that chemotherapy, given after surgery, may improve your chances of a cure.
If you have small cell lung cancer, the recommendation will likely be that you have chemotherapy, or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, because this type of lung cancer tends to spread, or metastasize, early. Even if there are no signs that your cancer has spread beyond the lungs, chemotherapy, which is a systemic treatment, can kill any cancer cells that may have escaped from the primary cancer site.
In the video above, Dr. Martins talks about treating lung cancer with chemotherapy, which is a systemic treatment that works by killing fast-growing cells, but the drugs cannot discriminate between cancer cells and other fast-growing cells, such as hair follicles. That is one reason for many of the typical side effects of chemotherapy treatment, including hair loss.
The standard chemotherapy medications used to treat lung cancer are usually a combination of two or more of the following drugs:
- Carboplatin (Paraplatin)
- Cisplatin (Platinol)
- Gemcitabine (Gemzar)
- Paclitaxel (Taxol)
- Docetaxel (Taxotere)
- Vinorelbine (Navelbine)
- Irinotecan (Camptosar, CPT-11)
- Etoposide (VP-16, VePesid)
Some chemotherapy drugs are taken by mouth, in pill form, while others are given intravenously, with a drip into a vein.
Chemotherapy is given in the Infusion Suite on the fifth floor of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance clinic. You may bring a friend or family member to sit with you during your treatment, which may take several hours.