After treatment

For most people, the cancer experience doesn’t end when treatment ends. Life after lung cancer treatment has its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.

Some people say that they feel pressure to return to ‘normal life’, but they don’t want life to return to how it was before cancer. Take some time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and re-establish a new daily routine at your own pace.

Lung cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. The main goal of treatment is to manage your symptoms and keep them under control for as long as possible.

Treatment can help you feel better and improve quality of life. This is called palliative treatment.

Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who have had cancer, and provide you with more information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.

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Listen to podcasts on Cancer Affects the Carer Too and Managing Cancer Fatigue

Follow-up appointments

After your treatment, you will need regular check-ups. Your check-ups may include chest x-rays, CT scans and blood tests.

Follow-up appointments may be every 3–6 months for the first couple of years and 6–12 months for the following three years. If you have received more than one type of treatment, you may have appointments with different specialists. Between appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any health problems.

What if the cancer returns?

For some people, lung cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. Lung cancer is more likely to recur in the first five years following diagnosis. This is why it is important to have regular check-ups.

If the cancer recurs, your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. These will depend on the type of lung cancer and where the cancer has recurred, as well as the stage and grade of the cancer.

It may also be necessary to have another biopsy to check for gene mutations. You may be offered the following:

  • recurrent non-small cell lung cancer – radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or the option to join a clinical trial.
  • recurrent small cell lung cancer – chemotherapy, radiation therapy or the option to participate in a clinical trial.

Dealing with feelings of sadness

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.

Talk to your GP, specialist or nurse as counselling or medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Your local Cancer Council may also run a counselling program.

The organisation beyondblue has information about coping with depression and anxiety. Go to or call 1300 22 4636 to order a fact sheet.

This information was last reviewed in November 2016.
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