Lung cancer treatment often triggers negative side effects due to the damage that treatment causes healthy tissues or cells. Side effects may vary from person to person, even among those receiving the same treatment—and often depends on the type, amount and frequency of treatment. Patients’ age and other health conditions may also determine the frequency or intensity of side effects.

Various supportive care therapies exist to manage the side effects associated with lung cancer treatment. 

Loss of appetite

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may lead to loss of appetite, change in taste and sensitivity to the smell of food.

Food odor sensitivity can be managed by eating cold food, especially nutrient-dense foods that are high in proteins and calories. Eating five to six small meals a day rather than three big meals may help; so can physical activity. Take medications to increase appetite as prescribed.  


Chemotherapy or brain radiation often causes nausea and vomiting, which can lead to a loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and dehydration. Anti-nausea medications should be taken as prescribed. Eat small meals throughout the day to reduce nausea and vomiting.


Diarrhea can occur as a side effect of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapies. Take anti-diarrhea medications as prescribed. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol as well as coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks.

Hair loss

Chemotherapy drugs or brain radiation may affect the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Plan for hair loss by getting a haircut and buying wigs, hats or scarves.


Medications including chemotherapy drugs, opioid pain relievers, antidepressants,and muscle relaxants can cause constipation.

Eat fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods with plenty of fluids. Mild physical activity such as short walks may also help  manage constipation. Take laxatives or stool softeners as directed by a physician.

Shortness of breath

Radiation treatment may damage the lung tissue, causing difficult breathing and shortness of breath, which is common in people with lung cancer. Use inhalers or other medications to open up airways or reduce swelling. Use portable oxygen as directed by a doctor.


Cancer treatment or medications used to treat side effects such as nausea, pain, depression and anxiety can also cause fatigue.

Save energy, rest and avoid additional activities, though short naps and regular exercise can help manage fatigue. East a healthy diet to ensure proper nutrition. Other conditions, such as depression, that may cause fatigue should be treated. Check red blood cell levels; anemia, or low red blood cell count, may need to be treated by transfusion.


Some chemotherapy drugs used to treat lung cancer may cause numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. These include Taxotere (docetaxel), Taxol (paclitaxel), and Etopophos (etoposide phosphate).

Numbness can be managed by dressing appropriately and avoiding tight socks or shoes. Exercise, including walking or light activities, may also help. Take pain relievers, sedatives or antidepressants to manage numbness, but only when prescribed by a doctor.

Low red blood cell count

Chemotherapy can affect rapidly dividing red blood cells. This decreases the level of red blood cells. As a result, body tissues may not get enough oxygen, causing symptoms such as fatigue.

Eat a healthy diet rich in protein and iron. Adequate rest may also help manage low red blood cell count, though a blood transfusion may be needed.

Low white blood cell count

Chemotherapy may also damage white blood cells, suppressing the immune system and increasing the risk of infections.

Avoiding contact with infected surfaces and maintaining proper hygiene may help manage complications associated with low white blood cell count.

Skin reaction

Radiation therapy and targeted therapies can cause skin reactions such as rash, severely dry skin, redness, itching, or peeling.

To avoid such reactions, moisturize the skin before, during and after therapy as recommended. Wearing loose-fitting clothes, avoiding exposure to sun and using sunscreen when going outside can help. Use hydrocortisone or antibiotic creams and oral antibiotics as prescribed.

Severe sore throat

Radiation to the chest may cause throat swelling and inflammation.

Take pain relievers or other medications before eating or as prescribed. Eating soft and cool foods can help. Avoid citrus, spicy or acidic foods, and carbonated or caffeinated drinks as well.


Note: Lung Cancer News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.