When the tumor(s) is large or located in an area where surgery might be difficult, or the cancer has spread to the other lung or into other organs in the chest, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be used first. In some cases the tumor is reduced enough to be surgically removed.
Surgery causes a number of side effects, some of which may go away within days or weeks, some of which may last for longer periods of time. Pain is an expected side effect and immediately after surgery patients are usually provided with effective medications. Some pain, though, is tenacious. Many people who have lung surgery complain of lasting pain at the incision sites. This is especially difficult for women because the incision line is often right at the bra line. Many women find alternatives to tight clothing to avoid this irritating and lasting pain.
Another side effect that is not often mentioned is the stress of the surgery itself, along with the stress on the body from the anesthetic and other medications used during surgery. These all tend to reduce the ability of your natural immune system to ward off infection.
Many women with lung cancer will need radiation therapy at some time during their illness, either as treatment or as a means of symptom management (palliation). Radiation therapy consists of directing a beam of high-energy rays at a tumor. By injuring cancer cells so that they cannot continue to multiply, the radiation slows down or stops tumor growth. The amount of radiation is based on the size and location of the tumor. Some of the side effects associated with radiation include fatigue, dry or sore throat, skin irritation, loss of hair (in the treated area only).