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Living with lung cancer
Life after a diagnosis of lung cancer can present many challenges. It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes. Establish a daily routine that suits you and the symptoms you’re coping with. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.
For some people, the cancer goes away with treatment. Other people will have ongoing treatment to manage symptoms. You are likely to feel a range of emotions about having lung cancer. Talk to your treatment team if you are finding it hard to manage your emotions. Cancer Council 13 11 20 can also provide you with some strategies for coping with the emotional and practical aspects of living with lung 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 usually happen every 3–6 months for the first couple of years and every 6–12 months for the following 3 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 follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any symptoms or health problems.
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 5 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 manage 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, because 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.
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This information is reviewed by
This information was last reviewed in October 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Brett Hughes, Senior Staff Specialist Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, The Prince Charles Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Dr Brendan Dougherty, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine Specialist, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Kim Greco, Nurse Consultant – Lung Cancer, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Susan Harden, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Rohit Joshi, Medical Oncologist, GenesisCare and Lyell McEwin Hospital, Director, Cancer Research SA; Kathlene Robson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council ACT; Peter Spolc, Consumer; Nicole Taylor, Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Rosemary Taylor, Consumer; A/Prof Gavin M Wright, Director of Surgical Oncology, St Vincent’s Hospital and Research and Education Lead – Lung Cancer, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC.