Talk to any two lung cancer patients about their treatment and you might get two very different experiences. Your treatment options depend on the type and stage of your cancer, as well as your overall health and your preferences. The care you and your doctor choose should align with your treatment goals. If you've never given much thought to treatment goals, you aren't alone. Cancer treatment used to be a one-size-fits-all approach, but now with more options than ever before, it is important to recognize what your treatment is trying to achieve and make sure it is in line with your preferences.
Sometimes doctors talk about treatment goals in broad terms as the Three Cs: Cure, Control or Comfort. You might ask your doctor if your treatment is trying to completely get rid of the cancer (cure), if it is trying to keep the cancer from growing or spreading (control), or if it is trying to reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life (comfort). Within a care plan, there may be different types of treatment with different goals. For example, your doctor might want to use radiation to shrink the tumor and reduce your symptoms followed by surgery to remove the tumor and give you a chance at a cure. Once you decide which treatment approach to take, you can help ease anxiety by learning what you might expect.
How can you prepare for treatment?
Know what makes your lung cancer unique. Before you start treatment, be sure to ask your doctor if your tumor has been tested for biomarkers. The results from this important testing will inform your treatment options.
Connect with resources that help you know what to expect. Videos like the American Lung Association's What to Expect from Chemotherapy, Radiation and Surgery give overviews about each treatment option.
Be proactive. Did you know it is a good idea to have a dental appointment before starting chemotherapy? Find out not only what you need to do before treatment, but what to bring to treatment. The Lung Association offers helpful chemotherapy, radiation and surgery work sheets that cover much of this information. Don't forget to ask your doctor about how you can prepare and keep all of your notes together in one place.
Understand how it works. Newer treatments like immunotherapy can seem complicated and difficult to understand. Learning some basics can help you feel more at ease discussing options with your doctor.
Connect with other patients. Lung cancer patients are experts in their own experience and are invaluable sources of information and support. Join the Lung Cancer Survivors Community on Inspire to find people who have been in your shoes.
Going through lung cancer treatment is a challenging experience, but by familiarizing yourself with your options and communicating with your care team, you can make it a little bit easier.