If you have metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), you might wonder if the treatment plan that your doctor recommended is the best one for you.
Metastatic NSCLC is “stage IV” or “advanced” cancer, meaning it has spread from your lungs to other areas of your body. Where it has spread is one of the things that will help your doctor decide which treatment is best for you. Your cancer care team will also consider your health and things like your age and the characteristics of your cancer.
Fortunately, there are many treatments for metastatic NSCLC that may help you live longer and control your symptoms.
Chemotherapy. Powerful drugs travel through your bloodstream to kill cancer cells.
Targeted therapy. Treatment that homes in on proteins that play a role in how your cancer grows in the body.
Immunotherapy. Medicines that power your immune system to find and destroy cancer cells better.
Radiation. High-energy rays like X-rays kill cancer cells.
Many people with cancer change their treatment plan at some point. If you have metastatic NSCLC and are wondering about the right course for you, there are plenty of things you should know.
Reasons You May Consider Changing Treatment
You may want to talk to your doctor about a new treatment plan if:
Your current treatment plan isn’t working. That means it’s not easing your symptoms or making your cancer tumors smaller. Sometimes cancer treatments work for a while then stop working. If that happens, your doctor may want to add a treatment. Or you and your doctor may decide it’s time for you to try a different plan.
You’re not happy with your current treatment plan. Most treatments for NSCLC cause side effects. If yours are severe and other medicines aren't helping, you may want to try a different plan. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor or your care team if you’re struggling with your current course.
A new treatment becomes available. Cancer researchers are working hard to find new ways to treat the disease. If the FDA approves a new medication for NSCLC and your care team thinks it's a good fit for you, they may recommend that you switch treatments.
A clinical trial becomes available. This is when researchers believe a new medicine or new way of using an existing medication may be helpful for certain people. But before they prescribe it to the masses, they test it on a small number of volunteers to figure out how effective it is and who it’s best for. If it works well, the FDA may approve it as a treatment.
If your doctor learns of a clinical trial that you’re a good fit for, they may recommend that you apply for it. If you’re accepted, you'll stop your current treatment and switch to the trial treatment.
Before You Begin a New Treatment
There are things that you'll need to know before you make any switch to your plan. Be sure to talk to your care team about:
- The goal of your treatment
- The likelihood your treatment will achieve that goal
- Possible side effects
- How long you’ll need to be on the new treatment
- Signs that suggest that it isn’t working
It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion about any treatment plan you consider. Asking another doctor what they think can give you more information. It can also help you feel confident that the plan you choose is the right one.
Deciding to Quit Treatment
Metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer isn’t curable. Treatment may be able to help you live longer and ease your symptoms. But there may come a point when you decide that the risk, side effects, and cost of treatment are too great. If you’re thinking of quitting treatment, talk to your care team. Even if you do stop, there may be medications and lifestyle changes that can ease your pain and other symptoms.