Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a more common type of cancer. According to the Cancer Support Community, NSCLC makes up between 80 and 85 percent of lung cancers in the United States. Even so, an NSCLC diagnosis might make you feel alone.
If you’re feeling this way, you might want to consider joining a lung cancer support group. If you’re a caregiver, you can encourage your loved one to join a lung cancer community. But you may even consider joining one specifically for caregivers too.
There are many support groups out there, including general cancer support communities. However, a 1999 study published in Clinical Lung Cancer suggests people with lung cancer benefit most by joining a support group specific to lung cancer. From emotional support to quality of life, there are many reasons to join a lung cancer support group. Caregivers can reap similar benefits.
Read on to learn more about these benefits, as well as where you can find the right community for you.
Social connections and emotional support
Lung cancer can be isolating in many ways. If you’ve recently received an NSCLC diagnosis, you may feel alone. You might be the only person you know who’s fighting cancer. This can make you feel that you’re on your own in your struggles. You might even have to quit work, which may leave you feeling without a purpose.
If you’ve been fighting lung cancer for a while, you may not be able to keep up with a social life like you used to. The constant coughing might make a group setting uncomfortable. Breathing difficulties could make it hard to take part in physical activities. For active adults with NSCLC, not being able to do the things they used to might be devastating.
Caregivers aren’t exempt from the social struggles brought on by a loved one having lung cancer. Their time and energy are devoted to their loved one, so this may mean giving up social events, work, and hobbies.
Lung cancer support groups for those with NSCLC or their caregivers can help create social connections. Being in a group with others can lessen loneliness by creating a space without judgment or pity. You may also experience more freedom to be yourself. You don’t have to worry about extreme coughing or side effects from treatment.
Those who are undergoing or have finished treatment for NSCLC can also offer empathy because they share similar experiences.
These positive impacts on your social life from support groups can help your quality of life. Being in a group can ease loneliness and create a renewed sense of purpose. This in turn helps reduce the incidence of complications like depression.
Lung cancer support groups are also sites for educational opportunities. You may learn something new about NSCLC in the way of treatment. You then might talk to your doctor about creating a better treatment plan.
Each meeting at a support group often has a different theme. There’s opportunity for members to express thoughts and concerns. Possible topics include:
- treatment options for lung cancer
- helpful breathing techniques
- ways to prevent the cancer from spreading
- smoking cessation techniques
- exercise tips
- yoga and meditation techniques
- alternative medicine
- caregiver and home care information
- methods for communicating with your doctor
Many support groups are led by medical professionals, such as local hospitals and clinics. Some are run by local chapters of national organizations, such as the Lung Cancer Alliance or the American Cancer Society.
You’ll also learn from fellow group members by their success stories or challenges.
Educational support is critical for both the newly diagnosed and those who’ve undergone lung cancer treatment. There are new developments in cancer treatment every day, and it’s important to stay up to date.
Studies suggest a cancer support group might improve your NSCLC outlook. (But this doesn’t mean you should forego your treatment plan.) The exact link between support groups and survival rates is still not known. But given the other benefits of community support, it’s worth a try.
Finding the right support group
Finding the right community to share your experiences with is key to success.
First, you’ll need to decide between an online or an in-person support group. Some people prefer meeting other members in person. If you’re concerned about time, travel, or mobility, you might opt for an online group.
Another option is one-on-one counseling if you’re not comfortable with a group setting.
It’s OK to try out different groups until you find the right fit. Don’t give up until you find what works for you. (You may even consider starting a group, if possible.)
The following organizations offer support groups for people with lung cancer:
You can also talk to your doctor about lung cancer support groups in your community. Many hospitals and nonprofit organizations have free educational meetings and support groups for those with lung cancer.