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There are several pros and cons to consider when choosing chemotherapy as a treatment for lung cancer. Chemotherapy may help ensure all cancer is destroyed when used in conjunction with other treatments such as surgery and radiation, or it may help to shrink a tumor in preparation for other treatments. It also may improve the quality of life for patients whose cancer is incurable, even if it is not a cure. Chemotherapy for lung cancer can have some severe side effects, such as nausea, vomiting and fatigue, however. It may also make patients more susceptible to other infections by lowering their immune function.
One of the pros of chemotherapy for lung cancer is its ability to help ensure all cancer cells are gone when it is used with other treatment options. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that attacks cancer cells wherever they may exist in the body. It is therefore very useful when combined with surgery or radiation, which are targeted treatments that only address cancer in a specific place. Chemotherapy can then be used to follow up and attack cancer cells that may have been missed or have spread. It can also reduce the size of a tumor in the lungs, making it easier to completely remove with surgery or destroy with radiation.
For some patients, chemotherapy for lung cancer is not a cure, as the disease may be too advanced. It can increase longevity and make their lives better, however. Pain and other symptoms may be reduced when these patients receive this treatment, for example. Patients also have proved to spend less time in the hospital during the course of their disease while undergoing chemotherapy.
The negative side effects that can be caused by chemotherapy for lung cancer are one of the cons of using it for treatment. Effects can vary depending on the person and the type of drug being given, but for some people they can be severe. Some patients will lose their hair, as the chemotherapy drugs may attack the cells of the hair follicles. Nausea and vomiting are also fairly common, and some patients develop sores in their mouth. Anemia and fatigue can occur due to lowered blood cell counts as well.
Chemotherapy often decreases the body's ability to produce white blood cells from the bone marrow, which can impair immune function. This can put patients at risk for secondary infections. Coping with additional illness while fighting lung cancer can make the situation even more difficult to endure.
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