Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer

Radiation oncologist Daniel Haraf, MD, in standing next to Truebeam radiation therapy system

Building a Better Map

Innovations in planning and delivering radiation therapy have made treatment safer and more effective for lung cancer patients. For example, special, four-dimensional computer programs allow doctors to create a very detailed "map" to deliver radiation during treatment. In addition, technology called image-guided radiotherapy actually gives doctors a "real time" picture of a tumor’s response during treatment, so that they can adapt treatment as needed.

Shorter Treatments

Typically, radiation for lung cancer is given daily for two to seven weeks. Yet one of the newest radiation treatments, called stereotactic body radiotherapy, shortens treatment time substantially. This type of radiation delivers high, targeted doses of radiation--five to 10 times the dose delivered in traditional radiation therapy--so that patients require fewer treatments. Unlike daily doses of traditional radiation that are spread out over several weeks, stereotactic body radiotherapy requires only three treatments.

This technique may be especially helpful for treating patients with lung cancer that are not candidates for surgery. Research suggests it may be twice as effective at controlling lung tumors as traditional radiotherapy.