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What is chemotherapy for lung cancer?

With chemotherapy, a wide variety of chemotherapy drugs are used for the treatment of non-small lung cancer, and sometimes, two different chemotherapy drugs are given at the same time.

The most common combinations include the use of carboplatin (Paraplatin) or cisplatin (Platinol), in combination with a second drug.

Other commonly used drugs are:

  • docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • paclitaxel (Taxol)
  • vinorelbine (Navelbine)
  • gemcitabine (Gemzar)
  • irinotecan (Camptosar)
  • etoposide (VePesid)
  • vinblastine (Velban)
  • pemetrexed (Alimta)

Combining cisplatin or carboplatin with other agents such as gemcitabine and paclitaxel appears to work better than using one drug alone to treat non-small cell lung cancer. However, single-drug chemotherapy may be used for people with non-small cell lung cancer who might not tolerate combination chemotherapy well, such as those in poor general health.

Studies have shown that combinations of two chemotherapy drugs work just as well as combinations of three drugs, and that two-drug combinations produce fewer side effects.

If non-small cell lung cancer returns after treatment, the drugs typically used for therapy are docetaxel (Taxotere), pemetrexed (Alimta) and erlotinib (Tarceva).

Chemotherapy for lung cancer uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout your body. Even after cancer has been removed from the lung, cancer cells may still be present in nearby tissue or elsewhere in the body. Chemotherapy may be used to control cancer growth or relieve symptoms. Most anti-cancer drugs are given by injection directly into a vein (intravenously, IV) or by means of a catheter, a thin tube that is placed into a large vein and remains there as long as it is needed. Several anti-cancer drugs are given in the form of a pill. Some chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer may be given before surgery and some may continue for several months after surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.