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Radiation therapy is a powerful tool in treating lung cancer. Your cancer team may use it to destroy cancer, stop the cancer from growing or relieve cancer-related symptoms.
At UCLA Health, our radiation oncologists combine a patient-centered approach with advanced radiation techniques and technology. The result is personalized and safe lung cancer treatment.
What is radiation treatment for lung cancer?
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses powerful, high-energy X-rays to damage cancer cells. The treatment is delivered using:
External radiation (external beam radiation): A machine outside the body (called a linear accelerator) aims a beam of X-rays directly at the cancer and surrounding tissue. External radiation is the most commonly used radiation treatment for lung cancer.
Internal radiation (brachytherapy): Physicians deliver radiation directly to the site of the cancer with an image-guided procedure. Brachytherapy delivers a high dose of radiation to a small area.
Physicians use radiation therapy for lung cancer in many ways, including:
- As a primary treatment, given alone or along with chemotherapy
- Before surgery, to shrink a tumor
- After surgery, to kill any cancer cells left behind
- To relieve symptoms, such as pain, bleeding or airway blockage caused by the cancer
- For metastasis (cancer spreading), to lower the chances of lung cancer growing outside the lungs
Radiation therapy for lung cancer: the UCLA Health advantage
At UCLA Health, we provide effective radiation treatments that target lung cancer and focus on your health, wishes and goals. You’ll also benefit from:
Latest radiation therapies: We weave together leading-edge technology and compassionate care to provide safe, effective and personalized treatment. Learn more about radiation oncology at UCLA Health.
Lung cancer expertise: Our radiation oncology team specializes in thoracic (lung and chest) radiation. With a high volume of patients, we offer experience and expertise you won’t find elsewhere. Meet our expert team.
Team-based care: Your radiation oncologist works with specialists from all areas of lung cancer care. Together they develop and coordinate a treatment plan tailored to you.
Care close to home: UCLA Health offers cancer care at more than 25 locations throughout Southern California. Find a cancer care location.
Radiation therapy for lung cancer at UCLA Health: our approach
Our approach to radiation therapy is simple: We provide safe and effective treatment personalized to your health, wishes and cancer diagnosis. We offer a full range of therapies designed to treat you quickly and with the least amount of stress possible.
Planning your radiation treatment
Radiation therapy requires planning. Your radiation oncology team tailors each patient’s plan to precisely focus the treatment on the cancer while avoiding healthy organs and tissue.
To help us plan, we use a process called simulation. CT scanning creates images of your body. Then an advanced computer system creates treatment options and predicted outcomes. With that information, the technicians direct the radiation beams precisely and safely.
Types of radiation therapy we use for lung cancer
We offer a full range of radiation therapy options including:
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT): An advanced form of 3D-CRT that delivers high doses of radiation over a period of 5 to 8 days
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): A form of 3D-CRT that varies the intensity of each radiation beam
3D conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT): A technique that delivers radiation from many angles to target the tumor precisely while protecting healthy tissue
High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy: A treatment that provides an added radiation dose to lung cancers in the main airways of the lungs
Managing the side effects of radiation therapy
Side effects from radiation therapy are different for everyone and depends on where the tumor may be located. Radiation therapy only targets the areas of concern. After your radiation treatment, you may notice:
- Sore throat
- Painful swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Skin irritation
We offer support services through the Simms/Mann Center for Integrative Oncology to help you address the side effects of radiation therapy.
What to expect during your radiation treatment
We’ll be with you every step of the way before, during and after radiation therapy. Watch our video to find out more about what to expect throughout your radiation treatment process.