Recommendations for Follow-Up Care After Treatment for Lung Cancer

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C
Last Reviewed: November 15, 2022

After treatment for lung cancer, it is important for you to adhere to your provider’s plan for follow-up care. This article reviews the most common follow-up recommendations. You should talk with your care team about your specific follow-up plan.

Screening for Recurrence or New Cancer

Follow-up care for lung cancer depends on (1) the type of lung cancer you had (2) the stage of cancer you had and (3) the types of treatment you had

For Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

  • If you have stage I or II non-small cell lung cancer and you had surgery with or without chemotherapy:
    • You should see your healthcare provider, have a physical exam and chest CT scan every 6 months for 2-3 years, then every year.
  • If you have stage I or II non-small cell lung cancer when your primary treatment was radiation:
    • You should see your healthcare provider, have a physical exam and a chest CT every 3-6 months for 3 years and then every 6 months for 2 years. After 5 years this can be done annually.
  • If you have stage III or IV non-small cell lung cancer:
    • You should see your healthcare provider, have a physical exam and a chest CT every 3-6 months for 3 years and then every 6 months for 2 years. After 5 years this can be done annually.

For Small Cell Lung Cancer

  • If you have limited-stage small cell lung cancer
    • You should see your healthcare provider every 3 months for the first 2 years after treatment, then every 6 months in year three, then once a year.
    • Your provider may order a CT scan of the chest and abdomen if needed.
    • You should have an MRI of the brain every 3-4 months in the first year after treatment and then every 6 months in year 2.
  • If you have extensive-stage small cell lung cancer
    • You should see your healthcare provider every two months for the first year, every 3-4 months during years 2 and 3, every 6 months in years 4 and 5, and then once a year.
    • Your provider may order a CT scan of the chest and abdomen if needed.
    • You should have an MRI of the brain every 3-4 months in the first year after treatment and then every 6 months in year 2.

Healthy Living After Lung Cancer

Survivors often wonder what steps they can take to live healthier after cancer. There is no supplement or specific food you can eat to assure good health, but there are things you can do to live healthier, prevent other diseases, detect other cancers early, and in some cases, reduce the risk of your cancer coming back. After treatment for lung cancer, it is important to:

  • Have your recommended cancer screenings. These can include screening for breast, skin, prostate or cervical cancers.
  • Have your recommended adult vaccinations including annual flu, COVID-19, shingles and pneumovax. Talk with your provider about which vaccines you need and when.
  • Have an active lifestyle and maintain a healthy body weight.
    • Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise/activity most days of the week with a goal of 150 minutes per week. Talk with your healthcare team about how to get started with (or back to) an exercise program.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Try to limit red and processed meats.
  • Limit alcohol use - 2 or fewer drinks per day for men; 1 or fewer drinks per day for women.
  • If you use tobacco, make a plan to quit. Learn about how to get started.
  • It is important to maintain your health insurance so that you can continue to receive your follow-up care as recommended. If you are having insurance issues, ask your team for a referral to a social worker who can assist with this.

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