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When physicians talk about a lung cancer recurrence, they’re referring to a cancer that has come back after treatment. Sometimes, it can be difficult to distinguish between cancer that has come back and cancer that never truly went away. For cancer to be considered recurrent, there must have been a period of time after treatment in which a physician could not find any signs of cancer on the patient’s imaging scans and lab work. This period can be as short as a few months or as long as a few years.

Doctor with patient with lung cancer recurrenceWhen lung cancer recurs, it can come back in the lungs or elsewhere in the body. However, if it comes back elsewhere in the body – such as the bones or the brain – it is still considered a lung cancer recurrence, or metastasized lung cancer, and not a new form of cancer. 

When lung cancer comes back, a physician will usually change the type of treatments they recommend. Treatment for a lung cancer recurrence is called “second-line” treatment, or sometimes “third-line” treatment if the cancer comes back an additional time. These treatment plans often include:

  • Combinations of chemotherapy drugs
  • Chemotherapy drugs that show special promise for recurrent cancer
  • Cancer vaccines and gene therapies

Clinical trials are also a prominent option for patients with recurrent lung cancer. These studies allow patients to access promising new therapies that could potentially stop or slow down the growth of their cancers.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer individualized treatment options for patients with recurrent lung cancer. Our multispecialty team evaluates each patient’s unique situation – including the treatments already attempted – to determine which options would be most likely to help stop the recurrence. We offer everything from innovative chemotherapy drugs and robotic surgeries to immunotherapy treatments and clinical trials all under one roof, and no referral is required from an outside physician or oncologist.

​Medically reviewed by​ Dr. Bob Creelan

To discuss lung cancer recurrence with one of our expert oncologists, call 1-888-663-3488 or schedule an appointment.