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Living with lung cancer

Life with a lung cancer diagnosis can present many challenges. Take some time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a daily routine that suits you and the symptoms you’re coping with. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.

Because lung cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, treatment may be ongoing and it may be hard to accept that life won’t return to normal. If the cancer was diagnosed at an early stage, you may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.

Cancer Council 13 11 20 can provide you with information and help you connect with other people with a similar diagnosis.

Download our booklet ‘Living with Advanced Cancer’

Download our booklet ‘Living Well after Cancer’

 

Whether treatment ends or is ongoing, you will have regular appointments to manage any long-term side effects and check that the cancer hasn’t come back or spread. During these check-ups, you will usually have a physical examination and you may have chest x-rays, CT scans and blood tests. You will also be able to discuss how you’re feeling and mention any concerns you may have.

Check-ups after treatment are likely to happen every 3–6 months for the first couple of years and 6–12 months for the following three years. When a follow-up appointment or test is approaching, many people feel anxious. Talk to your treatment team or call Cancer
Council 13 11 20 if you are finding it hard to manage this anxiety.

Between appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any new health problems or change in symptoms.

For some people, lung cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. Lung cancer is more likely to recur in the first five years after diagnosis. If the cancer returns, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. These will depend on the type of lung cancer, where the cancer has recurred, and the stage and grade.

Whichever treatment you are given or choose to have, support from palliative care specialists and nurses can help you live with fewer symptoms. Talk to your doctor about how to get this support

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.

Talk to your GP, as counselling or medication—even for a short time—may help. Some people are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Cancer Council SA operates a free cancer counselling program. Call Cancer Council
13 11 20 for more information.

For information about coping with depression and anxiety, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit beyondblue.org.au. For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in October 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, President, Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group, President, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, and Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Dr Naveed Alam, Thoracic Surgeon, St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Prof Kwun Fong, Thoracic and Sleep Physician and Director, UQ Thoracic Research Centre, The Prince Charles Hospital, and Professor of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Renae Grundy, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Lung, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; A/Prof Brian Le, Director, Palliative Care, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre – Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, and The University Of Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Margot Lehman, Senior Radiation Oncologist and Director, Radiation Oncology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Susana Lloyd, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Nicole Parkinson, Lung Cancer Support Nurse, Lung Foundation Australia.