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Getting the Most from Your Lung Cancer Health Care Team PDF Print E-mail

The choice of treatment depends mainly on the type of lung cancer and its stage. People with lung cancer may have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of treatments.

People with limited stage small cell lung cancer usually have radiation therapy and chemotherapy. For a very small lung tumor, a person may have surgery and chemotherapy. Most people with extensive stage small cell lung cancer are treated with chemotherapy only.

People with non-small cell lung cancer may have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of treatments. The treatment choices are different for each stage. Some people with advanced cancer receive targeted therapy.

Cancer treatment is either local therapy or systemic therapy:

Local therapy: Surgery and radiation therapy are local therapies. They remove or destroy cancer in the chest. When lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body, local therapy may be used to control the disease in those specific areas. For example, lung cancer that spreads to the brain may be controlled with radiation therapy to the head.

Systemic therapy: Chemotherapy and targeted therapy are systemic therapies. The drugs enter the bloodstream and destroy or control cancer throughout the body.

Your doctor can describe your treatment choices and the expected results. You may want to know about side effects and how treatment may change your normal activities. Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. Side effects depend mainly on the type and extent of the treatment. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may change from one treatment session to the next. Before treatment starts, your healthcare team will explain possible side effects and suggest ways to help you manage them.

You and your doctor can work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your medical and personal needs.

You may want to ask your doctor these questions before your treatment begins:

  • What is the stage of my disease? Has the cancer spread from the lung? If so, to where?
  • What are my treatment choices? Which do you recommend for me? Why?
  • Will I have more than one kind of treatment?
  • What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment? What can we do to control the side effects?
  • What can I do to prepare for treatment?
  • Will I need to stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
  • What is the treatment likely to cost? Will my insurance cover the cost?
  • How will treatment affect my normal activities?
  • Would a clinical trial be right for me?
  • How often should I have checkups after treatment?

You may want to ask your doctor these questions before having surgery:

  • What kind of surgery do you suggest for me?
  • How will I feel after surgery?
  • If I have pain, how will it be controlled?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Will I have any lasting side effects?
  • When can I get back to my normal activities?

You may want to ask your doctor these questions before having radiation therapy:

  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • What kind of radiation therapy do you suggest for me?
  • When will the treatments begin? When will they end?
  • How will I feel during treatment?
  • How will we know if the radiation treatment is working?
  • Are there any lasting side effects?

You may want to ask your doctor these questions before having chemotherapy or targeted therapy:

  • What drugs will I have? What are the expected benefits?
  • When will treatment start? When will it end? How often will I have treatments?
  • Where will I go for treatment?
  • What can I do to take care of myself during treatment?
  • How will we know the treatment is working?
  • What side effects should I tell you about? Can I prevent or treat any of these side effects?
  • Will there be lasting side effects?

Considering a Second Opinion

Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Many insurance companies cover a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it.

It may take some time and effort to gather your medical records and see another doctor. In most cases, a brief delay in starting treatment will not make treatment less effective. To make sure, you should discuss this delay with your doctor. Sometimes people with lung cancer need treatment right away.

There are many ways to find a doctor for a second opinion. You can ask your doctor, a local or state medical society, a nearby hospital, or a medical school for names of specialists. Also, your nearest cancer center can tell you about doctors who work there.

Educational information provided by The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Internet site.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 February 2009 04:15
 
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