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.
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 x-rays.
In people who show no signs of cancer, most doctors recommend follow-up visits about every 2 to 3 months for the first year after treatment, every 3 to 6 months for the next several years, then at least yearly after 5 years. Follow-up is needed to check for 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.
It is important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.
Should your cancer come back, our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence helps you 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. 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 were 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 put on a DVD)
The doctor may want copies of this information for his records, but always keep copies for yourself.
Last Medical Review: 03/14/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013