Lung cancer

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Follow-up after treatment for lung cancer

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for lung cancer is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologist, surgeon and radiation therapist) and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you:

  • have a cough that is getting worse
  • have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • are coughing up blood
  • have headaches
  • have pain in your chest, stomach, back, legs or hips

The chance that lung cancer will come back (recur) is greatest within 2 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for lung cancer may be scheduled:

  • 3 to 6 months after initial treatment
  • every 6 months for 2 years

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. If you were a smoker when you were diagnosed, they will also ask if you have stopped smoking and offer you help to quit if you still smoke.

Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:

  • listening to the lungs or the remaining lung
  • feeling the abdomen for any swelling or lumps

Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • a CT scan to see if cancer has come back in the chest
  • a chest x-ray if a CT scan is not used
  • blood chemistry tests to check if cancer has spread to the liver or bones

If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss a plan for your treatment and care.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.

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