Dealing with a diagnosis of lung cancer can be overwhelming. It’s natural that you’ll have a lot of questions, but you might not know where to start.
It’s critical to feel comfortable asking your doctor and cancer care team about anything that concerns you. Here are some questions to help you start those important conversations with your doctor at each stage of your cancer journey, so you feel as informed and in control as possible.
Receiving a diagnosis of lung cancer can be distressing. There is a lot to learn about cancer. You may want to start with these questions.
1. What kind of lung cancer do I have?
There are two main kinds of lung cancer, and understanding which one you have is helpful.
Your doctor will be able to explain if you have non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or small cell lung cancer (SCLC). A third, less common type of lung cancer is called carcinoid.
It can be helpful to ask your doctor to write down the name of your cancer, so you are sure of your type as you research more about it.
2. What stage is my lung cancer?
A stage of cancer refers to how big a cancer tumor is and how far it has spread in the body. Knowing the stage of your cancer will help you understand the severity and what treatment options are available to you.
3. What is my outlook?
A doctor may be able to tell you about your outlook based on the type and stage of cancer you have and how well it might respond to treatment.
It is important to remember that an outlook is just an estimation based on available statistics. Every individual is different and responds differently to treatment.
4. Should I get a second opinion?
You have the right to get a second, third, or even fourth opinion. A second opinion may provide more information than the first doctor you work with or provide alternative advice.
5. Do I qualify for any clinical trials?
Clinical trials explore new ways to treat cancers like lung cancer. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you qualify for any ongoing clinical trials.
Treatment options vary between people. Asking questions will help you get a better understanding of what’s available and which option may be the most successful for you.
6. Will I need more tests before treatment starts?
There are numerous tests a doctor may use to diagnose cancer and determine the best treatment options. These tests may include:
- CT scan
- chest X-ray
- PET scan
- needle biopsy
7. What is the goal of treatment?
While the main goal of treatment is a cure, this may not be possible for everyone. Other important goals may include controlling the spread of cancer or maintaining a comfortable quality of life.
Collaborating with your doctor can help you determine realistic goals for cancer treatment.
8. What are my treatment options?
Lung cancer treatment options may vary based on the stage and type of cancer. You may want to consider side effects when picking a treatment. There are numerous potential treatment options available.
It is important to know about all of the options available to you in order to make an informed decision.
9. How do I prepare for treatment?
A doctor may advise you to make lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking if you smoke. This may maximize the chances of treatment being successful, as well as improve outcomes following treatment.
10. Will I experience side effects?
Cancer treatments can cause a variety of side effects. These may vary from person to person. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can help you learn how to manage these side effects.
11. Will I lose my hair?
Not all cancer treatments cause hair loss. Speaking with your healthcare team prior to treatment will help you learn whether you may lose your hair.
Treatment can be a daunting process. You’ll want to ask questions throughout treatment to understand what is happening and why.
12. What is my treatment schedule?
Every person with cancer will have a different treatment schedule. Staying on top of your schedule and knowing what to expect is important.
A doctor can explain:
- what type of treatment you’ll receive
- how treatment will be administered
- how often treatment will be administered
- whether there will be breaks in the course of treatment
- how long you’ll receive treatment
- if there will be other treatment following
13. How can I cope with side effects?
Your healthcare team will be able to provide advice on how to manage side effects from your cancer treatment. This can include prevention strategies and where to find information on coping mechanisms and home remedies.
14. What diet should I follow during treatment?
Cancer treatment can cause a variety of symptoms that may affect appetite and cause other issues with digestion. Your care team will be able to help suggest foods that may be beneficial for you during treatment.
15. Can I take breaks from treatment?
It is important to discuss any factors that may impact your treatment schedule ahead of time. If something comes up that interferes with your treatment schedule, your doctor will be able to advise if a break from treatment is appropriate and what the ramifications of that may be.
16. I’m feeling overwhelmed and depressed, who should I talk with?
Some people undergoing cancer treatment may experience feelings of distress. Your healthcare professional will be able to refer you to mental health care professionals as well as support groups to help manage the emotions of dealing with cancer.
You’ll likely want to continue a dialogue with your doctor following treatment.
17. Will my cancer come back?
Treating cancer doesn’t always mean it’s gone forever. Sometimes, treatment is focused on controlling cancer rather than curing it. It is important to have a realistic understanding about cancer recurrence rates. Rates may vary depending on the kind of lung cancer you have.
18. Will I feel better soon?
Recovery from cancer treatment can take time and varies by person. Your care team will be able to help you adjust, as well as advise how long it may take you to feel more like you did before lung cancer.
19. How will my life be different after treatment?
Those who go through lung cancer may have to adjust to a “new normal” following treatment. This may include differences in physical ability and lifestyle changes. A doctor will be able to explain what to expect.
20. Will I need any more tests?
Following cancer treatment, your doctor may order a variety of tests to monitor your health. This involves checking whether lung cancer is properly managed or whether it has returned.
This may also involve checking for any side effects or other health issues that may occur as a result of cancer treatment.
21. Will there be any late side effects?
Some side effects may not occur until months or even years following treatment. It’s important to be aware of these possible side effects.
22. What kind of doctor do I need to see for follow-up care?
There are a few professionals who you might consider seeing for care following cancer treatment, like a specialist for cancer survivors or a primary care provider. A doctor will be able to help you make the best choice for you.
People with cancer attend regular following up appointments. This is a great time to ask questions.
23. Do I have a follow-up care plan?
A follow-up care plan includes:
- a treatment summary
- recommendations for care following treatment
It is important to ask about this plan as it will play a role in your care following cancer treatment.
24. How often do I need a follow-up appointment?
How regularly you receive follow-up care will depend on factors like:
- the type of cancer
- the treatment received
- the state of your overall health
25. When can I go back to work?
Some people take time off work to receive cancer treatment. It’s important to be medically cleared by your doctor before returning to the workplace.
26. What should I tell my doctor at a follow-up visit?
Your doctor will to know about the state of your health at a follow-up visit in order to most effectively provide care. This health information may include:
- new symptoms
- new medications you’re taking, including supplements or vitamins
- any mental health issues you’re experiencing
- new family medical diagnoses
27. How can I stay healthy?
Your doctor should be able to give you tips on how to keep your body healthy following cancer treatment. This may include making lifestyle changes and taking health precautions like proper hygiene and getting recommended vaccinations.
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can seem overwhelming, but your doctor and care team are there to help.
Never hesitate to ask questions before, during, and after cancer treatment. It’s important you feel well informed throughout the cancer journey, so you know what to expect and hope to play your own active part in managing your care.