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Living Well with Lung Cancer


Photo by Cancer Type

Lung cancer can be treated in several different ways. Each person’s experience is unique, but the more information you have, the better equipped you will be to ask questions and make decisions.

The treatment for lung cancer de­pends on your lung cancer type, stage, and treatment goals. You will work with your lung cancer care team to decide what the goal of treatment should be: cure, control, or comfort.

Every doctor, patient, and caregiver hopes that treatment will get rid of the cancer completely. This is a more realistic goal for some people with lung cancer than for others. It de­pends on your lung cancer profile – the type and stage of your cancer and what treatment options you are eligible for. When a lung cancer cure is your goal, you may be willing to endure more intense side effects in return for the chance at a cure.

Sometimes, when your cancer is at a later stage or previous lung cancer treatments have been unsuccessful, your treatment goal might change to controlling your lung cancer. This might mean choos­ing treatments that try to shrink or stop your cancer from growing. If this is your goal, you might not want to choose harsher lung cancer treatments and the side effects they may cause.

If you have an advanced-stage lung cancer or one that hasn’t responded to treatments, you might consider lung cancer treatment that allows you to be comfortable and enjoy your life instead of treatment that will continue to address the cancer but might cause harsh side effects. You and your doctor will work together to make sure you are free of lung cancer symptoms and able to live your life.

Choosing Your Treatment
Once your doctors have determined your lung cancer profile and you have set your treatment goals, your doctors will present you with one or a combination of the following treatment options: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, clinical trials, and supportive (palliative) care.

Each lung cancer treatment option has risks and possible side effects. Most side effects can be managed fairly well, but you should consider all of the pos­sibilities when you examine your lung cancer treatment options.

Knowing What to Expect
No one can predict what your individual jour­ney will be like, but knowing what to anticipate during and after treatment can help you feel more prepared. Re­search as much as you can from trusted resources, and maintain an open dia­logue with your healthcare team about your needs. You should also ask if your hospital or cancer center has a nurse navigator or care coordinator on site to help you make decisions and manage your lung cancer care.

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Source: American Lung Association,

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2015.