Lung Cancer (small cell) Overview

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After Treatment TOPICS

Moving on after treatment for small cell lung cancer

For some people with lung cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. While it can feel good to be done with treatment, it can also be stressful. You may find that you now worry about the cancer coming back. This is a very common concern among those who have had cancer. (When cancer comes back, it is called a recurrence.)

It may take a while before your recovery begins to feel real and your fears are somewhat relieved. You can learn more about what to look for and how to learn to live with the chance of cancer coming back in Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence.

But for other people, the lung cancer may never go away completely. You may keep on getting treatments with chemo, radiation, or other treatments to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer as a kind of chronic disease can be hard and very stressful. Our document When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away, talks more about this.

Follow-up care

During and after treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to keep all follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, do physical exams, and may order blood tests, CT scans, or other tests.

In people who show no signs of cancer, many doctors recommend follow-up visits about every 3 months for the first couple of years after treatment, about every 6 months for the next several years, then at least yearly after 5 years. Some doctors may advise different follow-up schedules.

Follow-up is needed to check for signs that the cancer that has come back or spread, as well as possible side effects of certain treatments. This is the time for you to ask your health care team any questions you might have and discuss any of your concerns.

Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks or months, but others can last the rest of your life. Please tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them.

If your cancer comes back, treatment will depend on the location of the cancer and what treatments you’ve had before. Should your cancer come back, our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence can give you information on how to manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.

Keep your health insurance and copies of your medical records

At some point after your cancer is found and treated, you may find yourself in the office of a new doctor. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get them at some point in the future. Make sure you have this information handy and always keep copies for yourself:

  • A copy of your pathology report from any biopsy or surgery
  • If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report
  • If you stayed in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home
  • If you had radiation treatment, a copy of the treatment summary
  • If you had chemo, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
  • Copies of your x-rays, CT scans, and other imaging tests (these can often be stored digitally on a DVD, etc.)

It is also important to keep health insurance. While you hope your cancer won’t come back, it could happen. If it does, you don’t want to have to worry about paying for treatment.


Last Medical Review: 09/09/2014
Last Revised: 09/09/2014