Lung cancer treatment can cause a variety of side effects. Self-care strategies and lifestyle adjustments may make it easier to cope throughout treatment.
Lung cancer treatment can be challenging. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy.
Side effects from lung cancer treatments are common. Those undergoing lung cancer treatment may experience a range of side effects including:
- sore mouth
- sore throat
- shortness of breath
- skin problems
- hair loss
- gastrointestinal problems
- mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression
While it’s not always possible to avoid side effects and other potential impacts on quality of life from lung cancer treatment, there are steps you can take to stay as healthy as possible.
Learn more about strategies for taking care of yourself while undergoing treatment for lung cancer.
If you smoke, consider quitting. Quitting smoking can help protect your lungs and take off unnecessary added pressure during lung cancer treatment.
Quitting smoking will also help you heal once lung cancer treatment is over. Avoiding secondhand smoke from others is also a good idea.
The Surgeon General states that quitting smoking is the most important step a person who smokes can take to improve the quality and length of their life. Even someone who has smoked their whole life will begin to see improvements in their health soon after quitting.
Ask your doctor to direct you to helpful resources for smoking cessation.
Undergoing cancer treatment can be highly stressful. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help reduce this stress.
Mindfulness involves slowing down the mind and focusing on what is happening in the present moment.
Some mindfulness practices include:
- focusing on your breathing
- listening to music
- taking a walk and focusing on the environment around you
- using your mind to take you to a peaceful location in your imagination
Mindfulness has numerous benefits including:
- reduces stress
- reduces anxiety
- reduces depression
- increases enjoyment of daily life
- helps with quitting smoking
- improves relationships
There’s no specific diet that will cure lung cancer or make treatment more effective.
However, eating a balanced diet can help you feel your healthiest when undergoing cancer treatment, and this can help you better tolerate side effects. Following a balanced diet involves eating:
- lean protein
- whole grains
Chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy can cause nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and constipation. But certain dietary choices may help with these side effects. These include:
- drinking ginger ale
- eating bland foods
- drinking peppermint tea or ginger tea
- eating smaller meals
- drinking water between meals
For the majority of people, exercise is safe during cancer treatment and can be helpful. Exercise may help:
- reduce side effects from treatment
- improve sleep
- maintain your physical ability to complete tasks
- strengthen the immune system
- increase appetite
- improve your overall quality of life
Cancer treatment and cancer stage may impact how much a person can exercise. The overall goal is to stay as active as possible.
Your cancer care team will be able to give you advice about exercising and tell you whether there are limitations to physical activities you can do.
Treatments like chemotherapy make it more likely to get infections. This occurs because chemotherapy can kill off healthy white blood cells as well as cancer cells. White blood cells help fight germs.
To avoid infections:
- Wash your hands often.
- Ask visitors to wash their hands.
- Get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Get the flu shot annually, and ask the people around you to do the same.
- Be cautious to avoid cuts.
- If a cut occurs, make sure you thoroughly clean it, apply antibiotic cream, and put a bandage over it.
- Ask your doctor whether you need to get the pneumococcal vaccine.
- Take a bath or shower every day with mild soap and warm water.
- Brush your teeth several times a day,
Many people with cancer are told by those around them to keep a positive attitude. However,
Ignoring common feelings that might come up during treatment is unhelpful. These include feelings of:
Failing to acknowledge these common and expected feelings can make people with cancer feel more isolated than they already do.
Don’t pressure yourself to feel positive if you are feeling low. Talking with friends and family may help. If negative feelings persist, consider asking your doctor to connect you with a mental health care professional.
Dealing with cancer treatment can be difficult and isolating, but help is available.
Support groups can be a good way of connecting with others in a similar situation and learning different coping strategies.
Support groups may be centered around:
- type of cancer
- stage of cancer
- type of treatment
Some groups meet online or in person. The American Lung Association has resources to connect you to lung cancer support groups.
Working individually with a counselor may also be beneficial for those undergoing cancer treatment.
Undergoing lung cancer treatment can be challenging. Chemotherapy, surgery, radiation treatment, and targeted therapy can cause a range of side effects that can be difficult to manage.
Taking the time to practice strategies that keep you healthy and strong may make coping with these side effects easier. Some of these self-care strategies include quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and finding support.
If you need help coping with the side effects of lung cancer treatment, reach out to your cancer care team for advice.