Your treatment options will be based on your cancer’s particular type and stage, location, molecular characteristics, and your overall health. The most common treatments for lung cancer are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Some patients may be prescribed targeted therapy, which includes drugs that “target” cancer cells.
Surgery, or having an operation, is the physical removal of the cancer tumor and any nearby lymph nodes that may contain cancerous cells. more >
Radiation therapy (also sometimes referred to as radiotherapy, x-ray therapy, or irradiation) is the use of x-rays or other high-energy beams to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing or multiplying. more >
Chemotherapy drugs are used to kill cancer cells. Unlike surgery and radiation, which are used to treat local disease, chemotherapy is systemic; it can affect cancer cells throughout the body. more >
Researchers have discovered a number of ways that cancer cells are different from normal cells, and are developing drugs that “target” these differences in cancer cells. more >
Immunotherapy is one of the most exciting new approaches for treating several types of cancer, including lung cancer. Immunotherapies work by boosting your body’s own natural defenses to fight cancer. Several immunotherapies are currently being developed and tested in clinical trials for a variety of lung cancer types and stages. more >
New treatment options are always being tested in clinical trials. No matter where you are in your treatment journey ask your doctor if a clinical trial may be right for you. more >
Your doctors treatment receommendations will depend on the type and stage of your lung cancer. more >
You may wish to work with your doctor and/or nurse to develop a personalized cancer care plan, which acts as a one-stop reference for information relating to your treatment and care. This plan will include your initial treatment plan, which is a list of your cancer treatments; other medicines or therapies you will need to help your treatments work best; possible side effects; and symptoms to watch for. Once your initial treatment is complete, you may wish to update your care plan with information on any medicines you are continuing to take, any ongoing medical issues that need to be addressed and when to return for check-ups. A basic outline for a personalized care plan includes the following:
If you are not given a personalized cancer care plan, you can download or order a free care plan from Free to Breathe.
Once your treatment is over, it is important that you receive regular follow-up care. Visit your doctor as prescribed to monitor for any return of the cancer. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends that you have follow-up appointments with your oncologist every three months during the first two years after treatment, every six months during years three through five, and yearly after that. You should feel free to schedule more frequent appointments if you are experiencing symptoms that worry you, or if you have other healthcare concerns. Ask your oncologist what symptoms you should be on the lookout for. If symptoms occur, report them promptly.
Understanding all of your treatment options before beginning therapy can help you feel confident that you are making the best decisions you can. Getting a second opinion is one way to gain this confidence. The additional experts you consult may tell you the same thing as your original cancer care team, or they may suggest new options or clinical trials that you may want to consider. Consider going to a National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center or other major medical center to seek a second opinion. These centers are ideally suited to provide you with the treatment you need.
Most lung cancer patients are over age 60. However, a large number of young people, even those under 40, get lung cancer. If preserving your ability to have children is important to you, be sure to talk with your doctor about your options before you start treatment.
Some care you receive may not be designed to treat your cancer, but will address possible symptoms caused by your cancer or treatments, and any psychological, social or spiritual concerns you may have. This care is called palliative care. In addition to improving how patients with advanced cancer feel, palliative care has been found to lengthen patients’ lives; it is not only for “end of life.” If you have advanced-stage cancer and you are not referred to a palliative care specialist soon after your diagnosis, ask to see one.
After a lung cancer diagnosis, you may hear about “alternative therapies,” such as herbal remedies, dietary supplements, massage therapy, acupuncture or chiropractic treatments. While some of these therapies may be helpful in managing pain or side effects of treatment, they are never a substitute or replacement for proven medical treatments prescribed by the specialists on your cancer care team. Additionally, some of these alternatives may harm you; they may cause problems with the treatment you are receiving, or keep it from working. Always talk with your cancer specialists before starting any alternative therapy plan.
If you smoke, it is important to work with your treatment team to quit smoking. Quitting smoking will help you breathe easier, put less stress on your heart and lungs and help your treatments work better. Studies have shown that quitting smoking helps you live longer, even once you have lung cancer. Talk with your oncology social worker, case manager, or psychologist to find out about programs to help you develop a plan and quit smoking. This plan may include counseling and medications designed to make quitting easier. It is not too late to quit.
To create a quit plan today, call 1.800.QUIT.NOW or visit becomeanex.org.
This information is not designed to be a substitute for medical advice provided by your treatment team.
Last updated 2/2014
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