People who have undergone treatment for small cell lung cancer often have special needs. Lung cancer and its treatment can cause side effects, and there is a possibility that new tumors could develop after treatment. Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Lung Cancer Survivorship Program is designed to provide specialized care to address these concerns after your treatment ends.
Our Lung Cancer Survivorship Program
Follow-up exams are especially important for people who have had small cell lung cancer. All patients with extensive stage small cell lung cancer and the majority of patients with limited stage small cell lung cancer experience a relapse, meaning that their cancer returns after primary therapy. Lung cancer survivors are also more likely than those who have never had the disease to develop a second primary lung cancer – one that is not a recurrence of the first tumor, but a new growth unrelated to the first.
After your treatment for lung cancer, our thoracic survivorship program will monitor you for signs of cancer recurrence. We will also help you to manage any side effects that might result from your treatment.
Your follow-up care will be provided by a nurse practitioner who specializes in the care of cancer survivors and will coordinate your care with your cancer treatment team and your personal physician. During a survivorship follow-up visit, the nurse practitioner will:
- perform a physical exam and review your medical history
- evaluate and manage any long-term or late effects of cancer and its treatment (physical and psychosocial)
- discuss methods to prevent new health problems
- recommend appropriate cancer screening
- communicate directly with your primary care doctor and/or other specialized provider(s) to share information about a survivorship care plan
Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians focus on quality-of-life issues in lung cancer survivors, including shortness of breath and fatigue. Our multidisciplinary team is also exploring new ways to improve the lives of patients following treatment for lung cancer, including how exercise could help improve lung function.
Breathing and Respiratory Therapy
After treatment for lung cancer you may experience shortness of breath, as well as decreased endurance when performing simple activities such as walking or shopping. You may also find it difficult to keep your lungs clear of congestion.
At Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a team of physical and occupational therapists will work closely with your doctors to help you manage these side effects. Our Post-Operative Pulmonary Program is led by a multidisciplinary group of rehabilitation experts. The team includes physical therapists and respiratory therapists, as well as your nurses and doctors.
Our respiratory therapists will work with you to assess your breathing and will coordinate with your doctor to provide treatments that will help you to breathe better. If you undergo surgery, you may receive oxygen therapy and use a type of inhaler called a nebulizer that turns liquid into a fine spray. Some patients also benefit from a respiratory treatment known as continuous positive airway pressure therapy.
If you are suffering from shortness of breath or fatigue, Memorial Sloan-Kettering offers a monthly workshop called Breathing Easier that can help you to learn practical techniques to manage changes in stamina. You can also learn what to expect during recovery from treatment for lung cancer, and techniques for stress reduction and anxiety control. Family members of lung cancer survivors are also welcome to join this workshop, which is offered through our Resources for Life After Cancer program.
Because a history of tobacco use is a major risk factor for lung cancer, you will be asked at your first appointment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering whether you have ever smoked cigarettes. If you still smoke, you will be asked to stop. This is a chance for you to make your treatment more effective and safer. You also reduce your risk for future lung cancers – and the risk to those around you – by stopping today. Quitting is hard and everyone involved in your care wants to help you find the best way for you to stop. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering has special smoking cessation programs to help set up the best plan for you to quit … for good.