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Lung cancer health centre

Lung cancer - What will happen to me?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

The outlook for people with lung cancer is improving. The type of lungcancer you have and how early it was found will affect what happens to you. The kind of treatment you have and the way you decide to live with your cancer will also make a difference.

Most people with lung cancer are only diagnosed when the disease is advanced. It has already spread either to tissues nearby or to more distant parts of the body. And for many people with lung cancer, treatments don't work as well as they do for other types of cancer. There are striking success stories, and some people do live for many years after they discover they have lung cancer, but most don't.

Everyone has different priorities in their life. Research has shown that for most people, how we feel and the enjoyment we get out of life are at least as important as how long we live. When researchers have asked people with lung cancer what is important to them, they say that their general health, their family life, their social and leisure activities, and their overall enjoyment of life come before living longer.[1]

Wherever possible, your treatment should be designed to help you get what you want out of life. You may wish to spend time with friends or family, or you may want to stay as active or independent as possible. Some people want to think more about the spiritual side of life. And many find benefit from talking to a counsellor about their disease and how to best live with their illness.

Cancer specialists don't talk about treatments curing you because it's difficult to say when there has been a cure. Doctors may see no sign of cancer, but they can't be certain that it won't come back. Instead, they look at the number of people who live two, three, five or 10 years after their treatment. Doctors call these numbers survival rates.

You may hear your doctors use other words that measure the success of treatments for lung cancer. Here's what they mean.

  • Response: A complete response means there is no sign of any cancer cells after treatment. A partial response means treatment has made the cancer smaller.

  • Remission: This means you no longer have any sign of cancer and are in good health.

  • Time to relapse (or time to recurrence): This is the amount of time before the cancer comes back after it has responded completely to treatment.

  • Disease-free survival: This is a measure of how long people live after treatment without any signs of the cancer coming back.

If you have lung cancer, you may want to know more about what will happen to you. Some people want to read this information, others don't. If you read these figures, remember that they are based on the results seen with large groups of people. You are not a statistic, and no one can predict what will happen to you individually. Things such as your overall health when your lung cancer was diagnosed will affect what happens to you.

To find out the survival rates for different types and stages of the disease, see Lung cancer survival rates.


For references related to Lung cancer click here.
Last Updated: September 27, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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