Living with Lung Cancer

Coping with lung cancer goes far beyond the standard treatment that many people associate with the disease. Find out what other things you can do about it.
Living with Lung Cancer

Last update: 10 August, 2021

Living with lung cancer involves dealing with many emotional and physical changes in your life. The first step is to assimilate the disease and start treatment. The second includes a series of day-to-day changes that will allow you to cope better with the different therapies, control your emotions and strengthen your quality of life.

Keep in mind that it’s impossible to give an accurate prognosis of the evolution of the disease. Your age, health condition, underlying conditions, and the characteristics of the malignant tumor determine the progression of the condition. While awaiting the results of the therapies, you can take into account the suggestions that we’ll give you below.

The importance of quitting smoking in lung cancer

Living with lung cancer means quitting cigarettes
Many people often believe that quitting smoking when you are diagnosed with lung cancer diagnosis is “unnecessary.” However, science shows otherwise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 90% of lung cancer cases are smokers. If this is your case, after the diagnosis you have to quit smoking. You may wonder why you need to quit smoking if you already have cancer. We’ll answer this question using the recommendations of Cleveland Clinic :

  • Smoking worsens the side effects of treatment. These include fatigue, inflammation of the lungs, nausea, and vomiting, which are all common sequelae during lung cancer therapy. If you don’t give up smoking these will be more intense and persistent.
  • Treatment is less effective: Likewise, maintaining the habit can affect the effectiveness of some of the therapies used to counteract the disease. For example, it takes longer for wounds to heal after surgery. There’s also evidence that it alters the way your body accepts chemotherapy.
  • You can risk relapse. If the treatment has been successful, but you continue with the habit, you can expose yourself to relapse. Keep in mind that smoking isn’t only a risk factor for lung cancer, it’s also a risk factor for cancer of the mouth, liver, pancreas, larynx, throat, kidney and many others.

It’s for this reason that researchers consider giving up smoking as part of the all-round treatment of this type of cancer. Not only do you reduce the risks and improve the prognosis of the therapies, but it also brings you other health benefits.

Psychosocial management for living with lung cancer

Cancer isn’t only an obstacle from a physical point of view, but it can also affect you emotionally. A study published in 2001 in the journal Psychooncology compared the prevalence of psychological distress in 14 types of people with cancer. According to the results, lung cancer  is the one that generates the greatest complications of this type, with a prevalence of 43.4%.

The feelings can be very varied: anguish, anxiety, anger, guilt or fear. Researchers suggest that one in four patients develops depression, so supportive therapy should be part of the main treatment. Among the things you can do we highlight the following:

  • Start sessions with a psychology professional (alone or in the company of family members).
  • Share emotions, expectations, and forecasts with your inner circle.
  • Attend support groups for patients who have been diagnosed with the disease.
  • Keep a journal with the incidents surrounding the condition.
  • Assimilate the disease (which includes not hiding it from family and friends and adhering to treatment).

Dealing with feelings is more difficult during the first weeks after diagnosis, so you must work from then on to control, accept, and share your emotional state. Start with your close circle first and then consider expanding to others (therapy professionals and support groups).

Nutrition and sports to live with lung cancer

These are two very important elements when living with lung cancer. As the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation reminds us, many patients limit their physical activities because they associate it with a worse prognosis of the condition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Playing sports helps you in different ways, including:

  • Improving the way you tolerate, respond to, and recover from treatment.
  • Reducing your stress and anxiety.
  • Helping you to sleep.
  • Increasing your appetite.
  • Improving your energy levels.
  • Helping you to relax, plan goals, and feel good about yourself.

If you include physical activity, you’ll be counteracting two symptoms inherent to lung cancer: fatigue and lack of appetite. You’ll do this naturally, without having to resort to medication in the process. The exercises you choose depend on your ability. They can be stretching exercises, walks, squats, and so on. Plan it with the help of your specialist.

On the other hand, it’s important for you not to neglect your nutrition. Studies support the use of nutritional therapy to counteract some adverse effects of treatment, as well as to keep patients healthy. Vitamin A and beta-carotene supplements have been associated with a worse prognosis (especially in smokers), so they should be avoided.

Tips for lung cancer patients

Living with lung cancer can be easier with support from loved ones
Family support is very important to cope better, especially when symptoms are severe.

Quitting smoking, taking care of your emotional health, playing sports and maintaining a balanced diet are not the only things you must do to live with lung cancer. Lung Cancer Canada recommends that patients consider the following:

  • Make a note of difficult activities that make your symptoms worse. For example, bending over at a certain angle or standing for a long time.
  • Condition your home to facilitate access to objects that you use frequently. This way you avoid exerting extra effort to reach them.
  • Go at your own pace to carry out daily activities. Avoid doing things too quickly for no reason.
  • Eliminate or simplify chores around the home.
  • Consider seeking support from a third party to reduce the effort you make inside or outside your residence (cleaning and driving, for example).
  • Plan your weekly tasks so that you combine them with the treatment.

It’s important for you to include the modifications gradually. This way they have a less alarming impact on your life and allow you to adapt to them more easily. Here are some very useful recommendations from the American Lung Association.

Living with lung cancer is a difficult challenge for patients. The important thing is that you feel accompanied by your loved ones and work on the feelings that you assimilate in the process. Trust your specialist and the therapy that both of you have agreed on as the best way to deal with the disease.

Why don’t you take a look at the following article all about the diagnosis of lung cancer and look out for other upcoming articles on the subject on our blog?

  • Cataldo JK, Dubey S, Prochaska JJ. Smoking cessation: an integral part of lung cancer treatment. 2010;78(5-6):289-301.
  • Carlsen K, Jensen AB, Jacobsen E, Krasnik M, Johansen C. Psychosocial aspects of lung cancer. Lung Cancer. 2005 Mar;47(3):293-300.
  • Cranganu A, Camporeale J. Nutrition aspects of lung cancer. Nutr Clin Pract. 2009 Dec;24(6):688-700.
  • O’Malley M, King AN, Conte M, Ellingrod VL, Ramnath N. Effects of cigarette smoking on metabolism and effectiveness of systemic therapy for lung cancer. J Thorac Oncol. 2014 Jul;9(7):917-926.
  • Omenn GS, Goodman GE, Thornquist MD, Balmes J, Cullen MR, Glass A, Keogh JP, Meyskens FL, Valanis B, Williams JH, Barnhart S, Hammar S. Effects of a combination of beta carotene and vitamin A on lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med. 1996 May 2;334(18):1150-5.
  • Zabora J, BrintzenhofeSzoc K, Curbow B, Hooker C, Piantadosi S. The prevalence of psychological distress by cancer site. Psychooncology. 2001 Jan-Feb;10(1):19-28.

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