What To Expect from Your Lung Cancer Journey

You can expect that you will need to be your own advocate

Many people with lung cancer can recall the moment when they realized they needed to take charge of their healthcare decisions. Your healthcare team does the best they can for you during this time, but only you know what you need.

  • Don't be afraid to speak up, ask questions and make your wishes known.
  • Research as much as you can from trusted resources and maintain an open dialogue with your healthcare team about your needs.
  • Be sure to ask your doctor the Top 5 Questions and demand answers that satisfy you.

Some people find they don't have the energy or desire to be their own advocate and find it helpful to have a family member or friend help out. You should also ask if your hospital or cancer center has a nurse navigator or care coordinator on site to help you.

You can expect to feel a variety of emotions

Learn to cope with these emotions by:

  • Communicating with your friends and family members
  • Expressing your thoughts in a journal
  • Asking advice from a support group
  • Seeking the help and guidance of a counselor, therapist or spiritual leader

You can expect that some of your relationships will change.

It is normal to feel like:

  • Nobody understands you
  • Some relationships feel closer and some more distant
  • You need something different out of your relationships
  • People treat you differently than you hoped or expected

You can expect to make lifestyle changes that keep you healthy.

Quitting smoking, eating right, staying physically active and managing your stress helps your body stay healthy.

See the Staying Healthy section for more information.

You can expect you might experience side effects that last a while.

You may have some lung cancer symptoms that take longer to heal or might last a lifetime. Some people may experience a late effect. A late effect is a side effect from lung cancer treatment that occurs months or years after a diagnosis of cancer. Some cancer treatments can make you prone to some health issues or make your current health issues worse. Luckily there are many ways to help alleviate lung cancer side effects. This is something to discuss with your doctor. Ask your care team to connect you with a palliative care specialist whose job it is to help you manage side effects.

You can expect to continue seeing the doctor for checkups.

Before your last appointment, ask your doctor for an "end-of-treatment summary" that outlines the original lung cancer diagnosis (the lung cancer type and stage) as well as the treatments received. It should also clearly state the proposed schedule for follow-up visits and recommended lung cancer testing to monitor your recovery.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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