Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy waves such as x-rays to kill cancer cells and cause tumors to shrink. Both small cell and non-small cell lung cancers can be treated with radiation therapies, often in conjunction with surgery and/or chemotherapy.

Faculty in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Emory are literally writing the book on radiation therapy safety. As technology evolves, so do guidelines to ensure optimal results and patient safety. Emory faculty have published numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific publications on the most effective way to optimize patient safety.

Radiation therapy can be given internally or externally to treat lung cancer.

External Beam Radiation

In this technique, radiation is focused from a machine outside the body on the area affected by the cancer. Before treatment begins, the radiology team will take careful measurements to ensure proper dosage and placement of the radiation beams.

The procedure itself is painless and only takes a few minutes. Common side effects of external radiation therapy include skin irritation in the treated area and fatigue.


In brachytherapy, also known as internal radiation, radioactive seeds or pellets are inserted directly into the lung tissue through a small tube, allowing treatment to be delivered to a more precise area. After the radioactive material has been placed, the tube is removed.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Winship is increasingly providing sterotactic radiosurgery (SRS) as an alternative to lung cancer surgery. Winship is the only center in Georgia that is credentialed for stereotactic radiosurgery.  

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) delivers a large, single radiation dose with extreme accuracy to a limited and well-defined treatment area. One of the benefits of SRS is that the treatment can be delivered in one dose.