Coping with Lung Cancer

Coping with Lung Cancer

An important step in managing your lung cancer and its treatment is to be informed. Cancer is a complex and challenging disease that is treated in many different ways. The more you know about your lung cancer diagnosis, treatment options, and possible side effects, the easier it will be to talk with your health care team to determine the best treatment plan for you. Lung cancer can affect all areas of your life. Below is a list of resources to help with your general concerns:

You Are Not Alone: Dealing with the Emotional Impact of Lung Cancer

How lung cancer affects a person or family varies. The impact may depend on the stage of the disease, its treatment, and personal and family factors. It is normal to feel anger, stress, loneliness, loss of control, or loss of hope. If you have these feelings, you are not alone.

Learning you are not alone can be an important tool to have. Try to find people with whom you can share your feelings. They may be close friends or family members. Some people benefit from talking with a counselor or clergyperson, or joining a cancer support group. Support groups offer people with cancer a way to talk about their experiences, support each other, and begin to cope with lung cancer.

Coping with Blame, Shame, and Stigma

There can be blame, shame, or stigma associated with lung cancer. You may find that this is especially true if you smoke or once smoked. Yet, many new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in people who don’t smoke, and as many as 20 percent in people who never smoked. Whether you smoked or not, no one deserves to get lung cancer. And everyone with lung cancer deserves support. Don’t let feelings of shame or fear of blame stop you from telling people that you have lung cancer.

Finding Hope

It can be difficult to stay hopeful when you learn you have cancer, but maintaining hope can be so important. Hope can come from inside yourself, or from talking with family, friends, or members of your health care team. Your sense of hope may change over time. Your hopes may be big or small. They may relate to your cancer – like successful treatment or good news on a scan. Or you may hope for better weather, or fun times with family and friends. Keep setting goals and finding things to look forward to.

Depression and Anxiety

Sometimes the emotional, social, or spiritual effects of lung cancer can feel unmanageable. You may find that you have lost interest in things that used to make you happy. Discuss these feelings with your health care team. They may be able to help by changing your medicines or referring you to a social worker.

Smoking Cessation

If you smoke, consider stopping. Your treatment is more likely to be successful if you stop smoking. Continuing to smoke increases the chance that the cancer will grow or not respond to treatment.

It is also important to avoid secondhand smoke. Ask people not to smoke in your home or car. If you smoke, or feel as though you might start again, ask your doctor or nurse what they can do to help you or members of your family stop smoking.

Palliative (Supportive) Care

Maintaining your best possible quality of life is an important goal. Some care you receive may not treat your cancer. Instead, it will address possible symptoms caused by your cancer or side effects from treatment, such as pain. It may help you with social, emotional, or spiritual concerns. This kind of care is called palliative care or supportive care.

Many hospitals offer palliative care at the same time as cancer treatment. It is often provided by a palliative care specialist. This person is a doctor or nurse who focuses on symptoms, side effects, and emotional needs of patients. If you are not referred to a palliative care specialist soon after you learn you have lung cancer, ask to see one.

Support at End of Life

When you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as lung cancer, it can be the first time you and your family have thought about death. People often think about what they might need and want to achieve in the weeks, months, or years ahead. It is normal for people with cancer to want to discuss the possibility of death. Family members may have a difficult time with these conversations and think this means the person who has cancer is giving up. This is not always the case. If possible, try to have these discussions when you are healthy and strong as part of the coping process.

If you are at the stage where treatment has ended, you may feel a wide range of emotions. Try to talk openly and honestly with your family, friends, and health care team. Focus on taking care of yourself and finding enjoyment. Ask for pain relief as needed. When the time comes, take advantage of the support services provided by hospice. Ask your health care team about hospice early in your treatment. Many people are referred to hospice later than they could be. They and their families miss the opportunity to benefit from everything hospice has to offer.



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