After surgery and treatment, your doctor will tell you what kind of tests you'll need to monitor your progress and search for signs of a recurrence. He or she will tell you what symptoms you should keep an eye out for. Our section on lung cancer symptoms lists some of them.
If you are a smoker, it is important to quit. You may think that the damage has already been done and it doesn't matter whether you keep smoking, but in fact if you have developed lung cancer once, you are at higher risk of developing it again (Video: Why cancer patients should stop smoking). Quitting smoking can lower your odds of a recurrence, as well as improve your overall health. Taking other steps toward a healthful lifestyle, such as exercising when your doctor gives you the go-ahead and eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, will also help your overall condition.
During and following treatment, you may experience side effects, depending on what kind of therapies you receive. Be sure to ask your doctor how best to cope with any side effects.
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The surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and medications used to treat lung cancer can have a variety of side effects both during and after treatment. These include:
- Shortness of breath: This may result from chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. Your doctor may recommend oxygen or an inhaler. It's less likely to occur after surgery in patients with otherwise healthy lungs, but people who smoke or have other lung diseases like emphysema may experience shortness of breath for a prolonged period.
- Nausea and vomiting: These are common side effects of chemotherapy, along with hair loss and fatigue. Radiation treatments can also lead to nausea and fatigue. Ask your doctor about ways to counteract these side effects. A number of effective treatments have recently been developed for nausea.
- Cognitive or other brain problems: Radiation to the brain can cause memory loss, fuzzy thinking, and other cognitive deficits even years after treatment. Ask your doctor if there is anything that can be done about symptoms.
Lung cancer can spread to the bones, causing pain and, potentially, complications like fractures. If you have bone metastases and experience bone pain, tell your doctor so he or she can prescribe painkillers or give you advice on other ways to reduce pain. Other drugs and radiation treatments are also used in patients with bone metastases both to reduce pain and prevent bone destruction by the cancer.
Last reviewed on 7/28/09
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