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If cancer keeps on growing during treatment or comes back, further treatment will depend on the extent of the cancer, what treatments have been used, and a person’s health and desire for further treatment. You should know the goal of any further treatment – whether it is to try to cure the cancer, to slow its growth, or to help relieve symptoms – as well as the benefits and risks.

At some point, it may become clear that standard treatments are no longer working. If you want to keep on having treatment, you might think about taking part in a clinical trial of newer lung cancer treatments. While these are not always the best option for every person, they may help you as well as future patients.

Even if your lung cancer can’t be cured, you should be as free of symptoms as possible. Treatment can often relieve symptoms and may even slow the spread of the disease. Symptoms caused by cancer in the lung airways, such as shortness of breath or coughing up blood, can often be treated with radiation therapy and palliative treatments. Radiation can also be used to help control cancer spread in the brain or relieve pain if cancer has spread.

Many people with lung cancer worry about pain. As the cancer grows near certain nerves it can sometimes cause pain, but this can almost always be treated with pain medicines. Sometimes radiation or other treatments will help, too. It is important that you talk to your doctor and use these treatments to ease any pain.

Deciding on the right time to stop treatment aimed at curing the cancer and focus on care that relieves symptoms is never easy. Good communication with doctors, nurses, family, friends, and clergy can often help people facing this situation.

Last Medical Review: 08/18/2014
Last Revised: 02/24/2016