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Lung Cancer

What Can I Expect?

Thursday, April 19, 2012 - 10:51

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Each particular treatment for lung cancer may have some adverse effects. Some of those effects may last a very short period, while others may last for a few months and yet others may be permanent. If you have lung cancer, be sure to discuss side effects of each treatment with your doctor. Often, medication or other steps can be taken to help relieve some of those effects.

Side Effects

Both radiation therapy and chemotherapy may cause fatigue, adding to the already weakened body from the cancer. Therefore it is important to rest, exercise, and maintain a healthy diet.

Talk to your doctor and the cancer care team about the best ways to stay healthy and remain as fit as possible.

Need To Know:

It is most important that if you were a smoker before the diagnosis of lung cancer, you should make every effort to stop smoking.

Emotional Support

Any cancer diagnosis is difficult. There are many support groups to help individuals and their loved ones deal with cancer, its treatment, and its effect on the body. Your doctor and cancer care team can help you find the emotional support you may need.

Following Up

Your doctor will arrange for regular follow-up care to determine how well you are responding to the various treatments. Further tests, including chest x-rays and blood tests, may be needed to determine how you are responding to treatment.

It's important to report any new or recurring symptoms to your doctor.

You also may also wish to obtain information about clinical trials in which you may participate. A clinical trial is a research study to determine the effectiveness of newer treatments. The aim of a clinical trial is to improve the current available treatments offered based on the results of newer scientific information.

Information about clinical trials may be obtained from your doctor or may be obtained directly from the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237) or at http://cancertrials.nci.nih.gov.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Many hospitals now offer pulmonary rehabilitation programs, which are designed to help people with all types of lung disease, including lung cancer, live as independently and fully as possible. The programs combine exercise and education in order to help individuals cope with lung disease and improve the quality of their lives.

Participants in the program are carefully monitored as they exercise on treadmills or use other equipment, such as rowing machines, while learning to control their breathing in order to fill their lungs efficiently and effectively.

Participation in a pulmonary rehabilitation program can:

  • Help people to better perform activities of daily living, such as walking up stairs, performing light housework, and caring for themselves
  • Decrease experiences with shortness of breath
  • Possibly reduce the need for hospitalizations or visits to the doctor

Pulmonary rehabilitation is approved by Medicare, and most insurance companies cover the cost.

The Outlook

The long-term outcome once a lung cancer is diagnosed will depend on a number of factors.

  • Whether the lung cancer is of the non-small-cell type or small-cell type. The former tends to grow more slowly and is usually detected in the earlier stages, when treatment is likely to be more effective.
  • The stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. Lung cancer treated at an earlier stage will have a better outcome.
  • How healthy the person is. People who are not well enough to walk around freely do not generally do as well as others. It has also been recognized that increasing weight loss before the diagnosis worsens the outlook.
  • The five-year survival rate is approximately 50% in those cases when the cancer is still in the early stage when first diagnosed. It drops to about 15% when considering all stages.

Lung Cancer