Lung Cancer Recurrence

Last Modified: January 12, 2011


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My mom had small cell lung cancer last fall and this late summer she came down with a brain tumor. The doctors tried radiation to the brain. This seemed to lessen the brain tumor but she has been diagnosed with lung cancer again. She is losing weight, no appetite and is coughing alot. Doctors have not given us a time line. What can we expect?


Tracey Evans, MD, Medical Oncologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

It sounds like she has had a recurrence or progression of her small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer is usually treated primarily with chemotherapy, though radiation to the brain is the appropriate treatment once it has gone to the brain. Presumably, she had chemotherapy when she was diagnosed last fall. With a recurrence, it is worth trying chemotherapy again, though it is often less effective the second time around. How she will do depends on whether she responds to the treatment. If it is felt that she will not tolerate more treatment, then palliative care may be in order. We are not usually able to give exact time lines, though her doctors can and should be able to give you some idea what to expect.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. See the transcript: Lung Cancer Q&A Webchat.