NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer - page 49

NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Version 1.2014
Part 6: Overview of cancer treatments
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6.3 Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. Many people refer to this treatment
as “chemo.” Some chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA
cid) or disrupting the making of DNA. Other drugs interfere with
cell parts that are needed for making new cells. Many chemotherapy drugs work when
cells are in an active growth phase. During the active growth phase, cells grow and
divide to form a new cell. Chemotherapy drugs that disrupt the growth phase work well
for cancer cells that are growing and dividing quickly. Other chemotherapy drugs work
whether cells are in a growth or resting phase. Chemotherapy can kill both cancer and
normal cells.
Chemotherapy is given alone or sometimes with radiation to treat lung cancer.
When only one drug is used, it is called a single agent. However, these drugs differ in
the way they work, so often more than one drug is used. A combination regimen
is the use of two or more chemotherapy drugs.
Most chemotherapy drugs for lung cancer are liquids that are slowly injected into a
vein. Some are a pill that is swallowed. The drugs travel in the bloodstream to treat
cancer throughout the body.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles of treatment days followed by days of rest. This
allows the body to recover before the next cycle. Cycles vary in length depending
on which drugs are used. Often, a cycle is 14, 21, or 28 days long.
Side effects of chemotherapy
The reactions to chemotherapy differ. Some people have many side effects. Others
have few. Some side effects can be very serious while others can be unpleasant but
not serious.
Side effects of chemotherapy depend on the drug type, amount taken, length of
treatment, and the person. In general, side effects are caused by the death of fast-
growing cells. These cells are found in the gut, mouth, and blood. Thus, common
A chain of chemicals
inside cells that contains
coded instructions for
making and controlling cells
The organ
between the mouth and
photon beam:
A stream of
particles that have no mass
or electric charge
proton beam:
A stream of
positively charged particles
that emit energy within a
short distance
side effect:
An unhealthy
or unpleasant physical
or emotional response to
= external beam
radiation therapy
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