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.
Taking action against all cancers
The latest Canadian Cancer Statistics report found that of all newly diagnosed cancers in 2017, half are expected to be lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. Learn what you can do to reduce the burden of cancer.