Living with Lung Cancer

LivingGetting the news you have lung cancer can send your world spinning. It’s scary. You may feel anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed – and you may not know how to cope with these feelings.

This is very normal.

You should know there is still life after a cancer diagnosis. Many people with asbestos-related lung cancer go on to live active and fulfilling lives. And you can, too.

First, we learned what asbestos-related lung cancer is. Next, we’ll take a look at what to expect if you or a loved one has received this devastating diagnosis.

Your Healthcare Team

Your primary care doctor may be the first to suspect or find your cancer. They will refer you to specialists who will help coordinate your cancer care. You will still continue to see your primary doctor for routine visits.

An entire team of medical professionals will be on your side while you go through cancer treatment. These are highly trained specialists whose focus is making sure you receive the best care possible. Your cancer doctor may update your primary doctor on your treatments and condition, so they will always know how you’re doing.

These are some of the medical professionals you may work with and how they’ll be involved in your treatment:

  • Pulmonologists specialize in diagnosing and treating lung diseases. They will typically get involved early to help confirm a diagnosis. They can also help with any breathing problems that may arise during treatment.
  • Oncologists are cancer specialists who will help diagnose cancer and set up a treatment plan. There are three types of oncologists:
    • Medical oncologists treat cancer through drugs like chemotherapy. They may also refer you to other oncologists who specialize in other types of treatment.
    • Radiation oncologists use X-rays and radiation therapy to treat cancer.
    • Surgical oncologists use surgery to diagnose and treat lung cancer. They do biopsies and remove cancerous tumors and tissues of the lung.
  • Thoracic surgeons treat cancers of the lung, esophagus, and chest wall by performing surgery on the lungs and other organs in the chest. If your lung cancer will be treated by surgery, you can expect to work with a thoracic surgeon.
  • Oncology nurses provide care to you and your family and explain medication treatments and side effects.
  • Pharmacists fill your prescriptions, explain how the medications work, answer questions about side effects, and provide resources to help recover out-of-pocket costs.

And that’s not all. Dieticians, patient advocates, rehab therapists, mental health professionals, and others may also be there to help you with your nutritional needs, to answer your questions, and support you through your treatment.

What Should I Ask My Doctors?

Your doctors’ appointments are your time to ask questions and make sure you understand your diagnosis, your treatment plans, and what to expect during and after treatment. Some people like to make lists of questions to ask during appointments because with so much on your mind, it can be easy to forget.

Click here for a list of questions you may want to ask.

Treatment Options

Mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer are aggressive diseases, but advances in treatment options are being made all the time. Common treatments include:

Surgery. If the disease is caught early enough, surgery is possible. And if the mesothelioma can be removed, it may cure the cancer. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is not possible to remove. Even so, there are still surgical options that can relieve your symptoms.

Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves using drugs that are toxic to cancer cells. These drugs may be given through an injection or taken orally. Treatments are usually given over a duration of months or weeks with time off in-between for recovery.

Chemotherapy may be used to treat asbestos lung cancer in a few ways. It can be used on its own or in combination with radiation therapy. It can also be used before surgery to make the procedure easier or even after surgery to prevent the cancer from returning. In advanced cases, chemotherapy may be used to relieve symptoms.

Radiation. Radiation uses powerful X-rays to kill cancer cells and keep them from returning. During radiation treatment, you will lie on a table while a machine directs high-energy rays at specific points on your body. Radiation treatments are typically painless and may be given up to five times per week.

Radiation may be used before or after surgery and in combination with chemotherapy. When surgery is not possible, radiation may be given to reduce symptoms.

Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy may be a treatment option for patients who have certain abnormalities in their tumors. These treatments can stop cancer by focusing on the abnormalities and stopping the cancer cells from growing. Targeted therapies often have fewer side effects than chemotherapy since they only damage the cancer cells, not healthy cells.

Clinical trials. New methods of treating mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer are being developed and studied all the time. You can choose to participate in trials that are open to you, which may help guide doctors in creating even better treatments in the future.

Your New Normal

Living with asbestos-related lung cancer isn’t easy. It will involve changes that can be intimidating and often scary – but there are ways to combat those fears and make the best of your “new normal.”

Knowledge is a powerful source of strength. Arming yourself with as much information as you can about your diagnosis can help take away the fear of the unknown.

Knowing where to go to find answers to your questions, as well as support groups who know what you are going through, can help you adjust to your new normal.

Where to Find Answers

Even the best doctors can’t possibly know everything. Never be afraid to keep asking questions, ask for second opinions, and search for answers. When you become an advocate for yourself and are involved in making important treatment decisions, you will feel more in control of your destiny. If it feels too overwhelming, don’t be afraid to ask a loved one to help you on your quest.

Some excellent sources of information include:

Support Groups

Living with a serious disease can bring about all kinds of feelings you may not be used to experiencing. You may have anxiety or depression or feel especially lonely, even if you have a circle of friends and family to support you. This is normal.

Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who’s been in your shoes and knows exactly what you’re going through. There are support groups available that will welcome you with open arms and provide the level of support you can’t find anywhere else.

Check with your healthcare team or your patient advocate for support groups in your area. For those in the St. Louis area, groups like Lung Cancer Connection can also point you in the right direction.

You can find other support groups here:

American Lung Association Lung Cancer Survivors

American Cancer Society Support Groups

Go2 Foundation for Lung Cancer Support Groups by State

When to Seek Legal Advice

For those with asbestos-related lung cancer, you may want to seek legal advice.

Hundreds of companies knowingly exposed their employees and families to asbestos, leading to a cancer diagnosis that can be devastating for you and your family. And that’s not your fault. Today, many of these companies can be held liable for their negligence, giving you the financial security to pay for your medical care and to take care of your family when you are unable to do so.

We’ve helped recover more than $500 million for victims and their families, and we are prepared to fight on your behalf to secure the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact us today to get started.