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Lung Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Depending on what treatment you receive for lung cancer, you may experience temporary or long-term side effects. At Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, we work with you to minimize and manage side effects after your treatment is complete.

You may experience side effects related to:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Surgery
  • Psychosocial concerns

Shortness of Breath

Almost all lung cancer patients will experience shortness of breath as a side effect of cancer and cancer treatment. You may have more severe shortness of breath if you had many tumors or a large tumor in your lungs. To help relieve shortness of breath, you may see a pulmonologist and/or a physical therapist. Your treatment may include:

  • Inhaler medicines to help relieve shortness of breath
  • Exercises to slowly and safely rebuild your endurance
  • Breathing exercises to strengthen your lungs
  • Nutrition therapy to prevent weight loss and help you avoid acid reflux

Over time, your shortness of breath should go away. If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, you may still experience shortness of breath due to those conditions and we can continue to help manage your symptoms.

Radiation Therapy Side Effects

Thanks to advanced, highly targeted radiation therapy, few patients with lung cancer experience radiation side effects. However, you may temporarily experience:

  • Dry skin
  • Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
  • Fatigue
  • Pain when swallowing

Surgery Side Effects

After lung cancer surgery, some survivors rarely experience nerve pain (neuropathy) in their chest. This pain is typically not severe and feels like a tingling or numbness sensation. There is no cure for neuropathy, but some medicines can alleviate the symptoms if they disrupt your day.

Psychosocial Side Effects

Fighting cancer can be both physically and mentally exhausting. It can be difficult to transition back to your normal life and routine after your treatment is complete. Your doctor may recommend that you participate in one of the cancer support groups offered at Sylvester. These support groups allow you to connect with other survivors and current patients who understand your experience. You can share how you are feeling in a safe, compassionate environment.

You may also improve your emotional and mental health by seeing a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist who has experience caring for survivors of cancer.