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Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer (cont.)

Next Steps

Follow-up

Following surgery for any operable lung cancer, the patient has a risk of developing a second primary lung cancer. Following any treatment, the original tumor may come back.

  • Many lung cancers come back within the first 2 years after treatment.


  • The patient should undergo regular testing so that any recurrence can be identified as early as possible.


  • The patient should be checked every 3-4 months for the first 2 years and every 6-12 months afterward.
Palliative and terminal care

Palliative care or hospice care refers to medical or nursing care whose goal is to reduce symptoms and suffering without attempting to cure the underlying disease. Because only a small number of people with lung cancer are cured, relief of suffering becomes the primary goal for many.
  • The patient, her family, and her doctor generally recognize when the patient has reached this point.


  • Whenever possible, the patient should plan the transition to palliative care in advance.


  • Planning should begin with a conversation between the patient (or someone representing the patient if she is too ill to participate) and her health care provider.


  • During these meetings, the patient can discuss likely outcomes, medical issues, and any fears or uncertainties she may have.
Palliative care may be given at home, in a hospital if the patient cannot be cared for at home, or in a special hospice. Palliative care consists mainly of treatments to relieve shortness of breath and pain.  
  • Breathlessness is treated with oxygen and medications such as opioids (narcotic drugs such as opium, morphine, codeine, methadone, and heroin).


  • Pain treatment includes anti-inflammatory medications and opioids. The patient is encouraged to participate in determining doses of the pain medication because the amount needed to block pain varies from day to day.


  • Other symptoms such as anxiety, lack of sleep, and depression are treated with appropriate medications and, in some cases, complementary therapies.

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