If you've recently been diagnosed with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), or you've just started treatment, it may feel overwhelming, not only for you, but for your loved ones, as well. There’s a lot of information to process.
But treatment for metastatic NSCLC is more than just medical procedures and therapies. Keep your emotional and mental health in mind, too.
These strategies can help you get the most out of your treatment.
Consider Your Goals
What you want your treatment to do will depend on your diagnosis, your health, and what’s important to you.
Advanced cancer like metastatic NSCLC has spread to other parts of the body. That means it’s harder to cure. So your goal for your treatment might be control. You want to shrink the cancer and keep it from growing. Or you may want to focus more on options that help ease symptoms like pain or shortness of breath. That way, you can live as comfortably as possible.
If you have a clear goal for your cancer treatment, you and your care team will feel more confident. That will make it easier to create a plan that suits your needs. Your caregivers will also know what you want.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Open discussions with your care team will help make sure your treatment is on track and that you get the most out of your therapies. These conversations will also help you make decisions that make sense for you and what you need.
During treatment, you may want to ask your doctor questions like:
- How do you know if the treatment is working?
- What symptoms or side effects should you look out for?
- What physical changes should you expect?
- Is there anything that might interfere with your treatment?
- Are there limits on what you can do?
- What's best for you to eat?
- Should you stay away from any foods?
You can also ask a caregiver or family member to be your advocate. Some hospitals also have nurse navigators, who act as your personal guide during your cancer journey.
Stick With Your Treatment Plan
Your doctor puts together your care plan based on research about what has worked in cases similar to yours. So it’s best to stay on schedule. If you miss an appointment for treatments like radiation, it may make it more likely that your cancer will come back.
However, if there’s a reason you need to miss a treatment, like a birthday or family vacation, talk to your doctor. Depending on your situation, your doctor might work with you to come up with an alternate schedule that will meet the needs of you and your cancer treatment.
Life with cancer can be a roller coaster of emotions. You may feel angry or sad one day and afraid and lonely the next. Sometimes you may need extra support or someone to lean on to help you process the emotional side of cancer. This can be an important part of healing.
If you feel overwhelmed, it may help to talk with others who have been through something similar. You may want to join a lung cancer support group. There are a number of in-person and online groups out there. Check with your hospital or organizations like the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society.
There are also options available for caregivers.
If a support group isn’t your thing, you can also find a therapist. There are mental health professionals who specifically work with people who have chronic illnesses like cancer.
It’s important to take care of your health while you go through cancer treatment. A good diet, stress relief, and physical activity can all make sure your body has the resources it needs to fight the cancer. It may give you more energy, too.
And if you smoke, now is a good time to quit. Smoking puts extra stress on your lungs. To get the most out of your cancer treatment, you want to protect your lungs and keep them healthy so they can heal.
Find Your Coping Strategy
Cancer treatment to can be difficult. Find ways to deal with the stress and uncertainty. It can provide comfort and help make treatment easier to deal with. Try meditation or deep breathing. Keep a journal. Talk to a friend or religious leader.