You have just been diagnosed with Lung cancer. What do you do? You feel anxious, you feel defeated, you ask yourself “why me?”.
You take a deep breath and become informed. A famous New York City clothier had a tag-line, “An educated consumer is our best customer”.
Become an educated consumer of your own healthcare, partner with your physician or healthcare provider and determine the best treatment care plan for you.
It is important for you to know that the chance of being cured of lung cancer depends mostly on the stage of lung cancer you have.
As mentioned in previous articles, it is crucial to identify lung cancer as soon as possible. Be proactive and take control of the disease and do not let the disease control you.
Below is a list of questions to ask your cancer doctor, how to cope with your cancer diagnosis, and what to do when you survive your lung cancer.
Related Reading: CANCER 101: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CANCER
Common Lung Cancer Questions
What are my treatment choices?
Choices consist of Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy, Surgery, and Targeted Therapies are the main treatment options for lung cancer. There are a number of factors that can affect which treatments will be best for you.
Factors such as type, stage, location, genetic characteristics, and molecular characteristics. Ask your provider to describe the factors to help you make a treatment decision.
How long will my treatment last?
The length of your treatment depends on the type, stage, and how well you respond to treatment. Treatment options will be discussed with you so you can make an informed decision prior to beginning treatment. Regular check-ups will monitor your treatment progress and can uncover any unexpected problems.
How much will my treatment cost and what will my health insurance cover?
Most health insurance policies, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover the majority of costs related to chemotherapy treatment. Some targeted therapies are covered and may require higher out-of-pocket costs. However, many pharmaceutical companies have financial assistance programs which are not very well known.
Many medical oncology groups along with hospitals are experts in offering financial assistance to those in need. Please make sure to speak with a financial assistance specialist to determine if you qualify for financial assistance.
What are targeted therapies?
Therapies uniquely tailored to the characteristics of your tumor are known as targeted therapies. Your healthcare provider needs to identify the molecular, genetic, or mutation make up of the tumor through special testing. You should speak with your healthcare provider to understand how targeted therapies will affect your tumor.
Should I consider joining a clinical trial?
Clinical trials are research studies that measure the effectiveness of drugs on specific cancer cells. Many patients feel that they get special attention, more care, and more frequent check-ups when participating in a clinical trial.
Clinical trials are available for all stages of cancer however, eligibility and treatments are very specific and your provider will know if you are eligible. Also, participation in clinical trials is strictly voluntary and you can stop participating at any time.
How can I manage my symptoms and side effects?
Take care of yourself. If you smoke, quit. Eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise when able, and get plenty of sleep. Take pain medication when necessary.
When pain medications are used appropriately, addiction is unlikely. Be sure to ask your doctor for help if you become depressed. Include your loved ones in the disease and treatment process, emotional support is critically important.
Coping with Lung Cancer
A lung cancer diagnosis can cause a feeling of discomfort when others either consciously or unconsciously blame you for getting the disease.
Some people express negative attitudes or think you are socially unacceptable because of a lung cancer diagnosis. Many of those inflicted with lung cancer experience disrespect which can prevent getting the care and treatment they need.
You cannot change the past. Guilt and shame drain your energy so try to stay focused on yourself and your treatment.
Many cancer programs employ social workers who are experts with psychosocial distress and many perform an assessment to determine your distress and identify ways for you to cope.’
Reaction to Stigma
Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. In your case, a stigma may be part of a lung cancer diagnosis. Reactions to a lung cancer stigma include:
- Reluctance to share your diagnosis.
- Social isolation.
- Increased feelings of guilt, shame, stress, anxiety, anger, and depression.
- Delaying treatment or not remaining in treatment
- Stress in relationships
- Loss of hope.
Coping with Stigma
- Create a teachable moment – Empower yourself by learning the facts about lung cancer and use the opportunity to educate others.
- Tell your story – Let others know that lung cancer affects a wide range of people.
- Be honest – Be honest about your feelings. Tell anyone who makes you uncomfortable how you feel and explain that your lung cancer deserves understanding and compassion.
- You have the right to compassionate care – If you are not getting the care you need or expect, choose a different provider or program.
- Find others who understand – Connect with others who have been diagnosed with lung cancer. Speak with your cancer care team about the best way to connect with others.
- Consider the many free programs available to you.
Lung cancer can be a complex chronic disease which is difficult to understand for many people.
Our next article will include questions you should ask your cancer care team along with tips for survival and how to cope with a lung cancer diagnosis.
“Lung Cancer Stigma: How to Cope,” Lung Cancer Alliance; https://lungcanceralliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Lung_Cancer_Stigma_How_to_Cope_web.pdf
“Living With a Diagnosis of Lung Cancer,” National Lung Cancer Partnership; http://www.freetobreathe.org/images/uploads/Free_to_Breathe_Booklet_-_ENGLISH.pdf