Lung Cancer

Adapting to Changes That Arise During Survivorship

After active treatment is done, you may feel different physically, mentally and emotionally. You may find it challenging to resume your life exactly as it was before cancer. Understanding that your day-to-day life may look a little different than it did before is the first step in moving successfully into survivorship.

Continuing Your Care

You will likely return to your primary care physician for your care. This may bring up fear, anxiety or uncertainty. Although you may miss the close interactions you had with your treatment team, rely on the support system you created to get you to this point. Your family, friends and caregivers will be instrumental in helping you cope with the transition into survivorship.

Before stepping away from your oncologist’s regular care, it is helpful to work together to set up a long-term follow-up care plan that will include schedules for physical exams and medical tests to monitor you for recurrence and secondary cancers. Although cancer centers are no longer required to provide a survivorship care plan, they do offer other support. Examples include survivorship care programs, educational programs, referrals and ongoing support for emotional needs, side effects, and any information about new late effects. You should also ask your oncologist for an “end-of-treatment summary,” which offers the following details that will be useful to your primary care physician.

  • Type and stage of cancer
  • Type of treatment you received, such as surgery, radiation therapy or drug therapy, including the amount of radiation given and drug names, if applicable
  • Hospital stays
  • Side effects experienced during treatment
  • Late effects to watch for in the future
  • Other services you received, such as physical therapy, fertility preservation and counseling
  • Recommendations for upcoming cancer screenings

Late Effects and Maintenance Therapy

Late effects may occur months or years after diagnosis or even after treatment has ended. Like almost all side effects, most late effects can be treated more easily the earlier they’re detected. That’s why it’s so important to stay in contact with your doctor to communicate any new health concerns.

Depending on your unique diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe maintenance therapy, which is treatment given to keep cancer from coming back or to slow the growth of advanced cancer to prolong a person’s life. Maintenance therapy includes using chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy, and you may receive this treatment for a long time.

Nutrition Plays A Key Role In Recovery

It’s important to understand the vital role nutrition and a healthy lifestyle play at this time in your life, both physically and emotionally. Keeping good nutrition habits may help you prevent weight loss, maintain your strength and energy, tolerate the side effects of treatment better, reduce your risk of infections and recover faster.

A healthy diet also improves your mood and helps you stay positive for what’s ahead. Choosing smart lifestyle habits, such as not smoking and stopping or limiting alcohol consumption, is extremely helpful in preparing your body for managing treatment.

Not everyone experiences side effects that prevent you from eating or getting adequate nutrition, and those who do may have only mild symptoms that are easily managed with medication or dietary changes.

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy kill healthy cells as well as cancer cells, which can make you feel weak or tired. Surgery may cause physical changes that affect your ability to eat. Common side effects include mouth sores, appetite loss, fatigue, nausea and more. Even if you feel you have good eating habits, these side effects can make it difficult to get the nutrients your body needs to replenish the healthy cells.

With the help of your health care team or a dietitian, you can make a plan that will help you maintain healthy habits after treatment. Your dietitian can adjust your goals to address your changing nutritional needs. If there isn’t a dietitian on your health care team, ask your doctor for a referral.

Going Back To Work or School

For some people, going back to work is a welcome return to normalcy. For others, it’s a source of great anxiety yet a financial necessity. Before you jump right back into work, it’s important to re-evaluate your career goals. Do you still want the same things as before your diagnosis, or have your priorities shifted?

It’s also important to re-examine your career abilities. Talk to your doctor about how your follow-up treatment schedule might affect your ability to perform the same job you had before cancer. You may decide that you want to first try part-time work to ease back into the routine. Or you may need to change course and pursue a career that is less physically demanding.

Consider that some side effects or long-term effects might require temporary adjustments at work, such as a flexible schedule, reduced hours, a redesigned workstation, the ability to work from home and/or altered responsibilities. Although your employer is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide reasonable accommodations, it’s important to be fair and upfront about your requests.

If you are returning to school, you might fear not being able to keep up with schoolwork or that your friends and classmates have moved on and won’t welcome you back. Your transition may need to happen slowly, as it can be physically and emotionally tiring. Being prepared may help ease anxiety. Contact the school administrators and teachers to prepare for your return and address any accommodations that may be necessary, such as extra time between classes, as well as learning or classroom challenges. These concerns are all common, but the benefits of attending school usually outweigh the risks.

Your Survivorship Care Plan

Download and print this Survivorship Care Plan to discuss with your doctor and customize to suit your needs.


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