- How are lung carcinoid tumors treated?
- Surgery for lung carcinoid tumors
- Chemotherapy for lung carcinoid tumors
- Other drugs for treating carcinoid tumors
- Radiation therapy for lung carcinoid tumors
- Clinical trials for lung carcinoid tumors
- Complementary and alternative therapies for lung carcinoid tumors
- Treatment of lung carcinoid by type and extent of disease
- More treatment information for lung carcinoid tumors
Radiation therapy for lung carcinoid tumors
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation in the form of x-rays or radioactive particles to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, radiation therapy usually has only a limited effect on lung carcinoid tumors.
Surgery is the main treatment for most carcinoid tumors, but radiation therapy may be an option for those who can't have surgery for some reason. It may also be given after surgery in some cases if there's a chance some of the tumor was not removed. Radiation therapy can also be used to help relieve symptoms such as pain if the cancer has spread to the bones or other areas.
External beam radiation therapy
External beam radiation therapy uses a machine that delivers a beam of radiation to a specific part of the body. This is the type of radiation used most often for lung carcinoid tumors.
Before your treatments start, the radiation team will determine the correct angles for aiming the radiation beams and the proper dose of radiation. Radiation therapy is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation is more intense (stronger). The procedure itself is painless. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, but the setup time – getting you into place for treatment – usually takes longer. Most often, radiation treatments are given 5 days a week for several weeks.
The main side effects of lung radiation therapy are fatigue (tiredness) and temporary sunburn-like skin changes. If high doses are given, radiation therapy can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, which can lead to trouble breathing and an increased risk of infections.
Drugs containing radioactive particles may be useful in treating some widespread carcinoid tumors. For this type of treatment, doctors use some of the same drugs used in radionuclide scans (see the section called “How are lung carcinoid tumors diagnosed?”), such as MIBG and octreotide. These drugs attach to carcinoid tumor cells. By using more strongly radioactive particles than are used in the scans, doctors can deliver higher doses of radiation directly to the tumors. Some early results have been promising, but this type of treatment is not widely used at this time.
For more general information about radiation therapy, please see our document, Understanding Radiation Therapy: A Guide for Patients and Families.
Last Medical Review: 08/15/2012
Last Revised: 08/15/2012