Chemo for lung cancer is effective, but still has risks and drawbacks.
Chemotherapy is the most commonly used tool to fight off cancerous cells. As a tumor is nothing more than a pocket of cells dividing at a higher rate than those about them, medication that will kill off rapidly dividing cell formations will destroy cancer in any part of the body. This is similar to basic antibiotics that attack viruses or bacteria which cannot be fought off by the body’s immune system. As such, chemo for lung cancer is very similar to chemo for heart, liver, or skin cancers, requiring a constant dose of highly concentrated medicine over a period of time until the cancer is in remission.
Chemotherapy is often used in tandem with radiation treatment; as such, many people simply think that radiation is part of chemotherapy or that they are functionally the same thing. While radiation treatment is considered more effective in tandem than stand alone chemotherapy on lung cancer, it does not always need to be done to cancer patients given the area or rate of their cancer. Radiation treatment — along with surgery — is done for specific areas of cancer that can or must be removed, while chemo can treat cancer growing in any area of the body.
As the treatment kills of cancer cells, it will also attack cells in the body that divide quickly as a result of natural function. These include the bone marrow cells and cells which produce hair, so that the two major side effects of chemotherapy are hair loss and decrease in immune system function (as the white blood cells which act as the body’s immunity to disease are created in bone marrow). In some cases, chemo cannot be administered, as the decrease to the body’s immune system would cause such problems that a mere fever or cold could be fatal.
Chemotherapy for lung cancers has a higher success rate than some other cancers. Cancerous lung cells are usually less aggressive than other types of tumors, making it commonplace to prescribe a chemotherapy routine to patients. This routine can last anywhere between a few weeks and an entire year, depending on the severity of the cancer.