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Our 24/7 cancer helpline provides support for people dealing with cancer. We can connect you with trained cancer information specialists who will answer questions about a cancer diagnosis and provide guidance and a compassionate ear.
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At our National Cancer Information Center trained Cancer Information Specialists can answer questions 24 hours a day, every day of the year to empower you with accurate, up-to-date information to help you make educated health decisions. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with valuable services and resources.
Or ask us how you can get involved and support the fight against cancer. Some of the topics we can assist with include:
For medical questions, we encourage you to review our information with your doctor.
For some people with lung cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer growing or coming back. This is very common if you’ve had cancer.
For other people, lung cancer may never go away completely. Some people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other therapies to try to control the cancer for as long as possible. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful.
If you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It’s very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask if you are having any problems and may do exams and lab tests or imaging tests to look for signs of cancer returning or treatment side effects.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some might only last for a few days or weeks, but others might last a long time. Some side effects might not even show up until years after you have finished treatment. Your doctor visits are a good time to ask questions and talk about any changes or problems you notice or concerns you have.
For all lung cancer survivors, it's important to let your doctor know about any new symptoms or problems, because they could be caused by the cancer coming back or by a new disease or a second cancer.
In people with no signs of cancer remaining, many doctors recommend follow-up visits (which may include CT scans and blood tests) 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.
Talk with your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan for you. This plan might include:
Even after treatment, it’s very 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.
At some point after your cancer treatment, you might find yourself seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know about your medical history. It’s important to keep copies of your medical records to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment.
If you have (or have had) lung cancer, you probably want to know if there are things you can do (aside from your treatment) to help lower your risk of the cancer growing or coming back, such as quitting smoking, getting or staying active, eating a certain type of diet, or taking nutritional supplements.
Some of these things may help you lower the risk of your lung cancer coming back, as well as help protect you from other health problems.
If you smoke, quitting is important. Quitting has been shown to help people with lung cancer live longer, even if the cancer has spread. It also lowers the chance of getting another lung cancer, which is especially important for people with early-stage lung cancer.
Of course, quitting smoking can have other health benefits as well, including lowering your risk of some other cancers. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.
The possible link between diet and lung cancer growing or coming back is not clear. Some studies have suggested that diets high in fruits and vegetables might help prevent lung cancer from developing in the first place, but this needs to be studied further in people who already have lung cancer.
The same is true for physical activity. More research is needed to know if being more active can lower the risk of lung cancer coming back, or of dying from lung cancer.
Some early studies have suggested that people with early-stage lung cancer who have higher blood vitamin D levels might have better outcomes, but so far no study has shown that taking extra vitamin D (as a supplement) helps.
On the other hand, studies have found that taking beta carotene supplements may actually increase the risk of lung cancer in people who smoke.
Dietary supplements are not regulated like medicines in the United States – they do not have to be proven effective (or even safe) before being sold, although there are limits on what they’re allowed to claim they can do. If you’re thinking about taking any type of nutritional supplement, talk to your health care team. They can help you decide which ones you can use safely while avoiding those that could be harmful.
If cancer does return at some point, your treatment options will depend on where the cancer is, what treatments you’ve had before, and your health. Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or some combination of these might be options. Other types of treatment might also be used to help relieve any symptoms from the cancer.
For more on how recurrent cancer is treated, see Treatment Choices for Small Cell Lung Cancer, by Stage or Treatment Choices for Non-small Cell Lung Cancer, by Stage. For more general information on dealing with a recurrence, you may also want to read Coping With Cancer Recurrence.
People who’ve had lung cancer can still get other cancers. Lung cancer survivors are at higher risk for getting another lung cancer, as well as some other types of cancer. Learn more in Second Cancers After Lung Cancer.
It is normal to feel depressed, anxious, or worried when small cell lung cancer is a part of your life. Some people are affected more than others. But everyone can benefit from help and support from other people, whether friends and family, religious groups, support groups, professional counselors, or others. Learn more in Life After Cancer.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. V.4.2019. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/nscl.pdf on June 12, 2019.
Parsons A, Daley A, Begh R, Aveyard P. Influence of smoking cessation after diagnosis of early stage lung cancer on prognosis: Systematic review of observational studies with meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010;340:b5569.
Rock CL, Thomson CA, Sullivan KR, et al. American Cancer Society nutrition and physical activity guideline for cancer survivors. CA Cancer J Clin. 2022. Accessed at https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21719 on March 16, 2022.
Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020;70(4). Accessed at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591 on June 9, 2020.
The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group. The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994;330:1029-1035.
Videtic GM, Stitt LW, Dar AR, et al. Continued cigarette smoking by patients receiving concurrent chemoradiotherapy for limited-stage small-cell lung cancer is associated with decreased survival. J Clin Oncol. 2003;21:1544-1559.
Zhou W, Heist RS, Liu G, et al. Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels predict survival in early-stage non-small-cell lung cancer patients. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25:479–485.
Last Revised: March 16, 2022
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