Lung Cancer


As you learn more about your loved one’s diagnosis with lung cancer, you may feel as if you’re in uncharted territory without a roadmap. That’s why it’s important to recognize that help is available to guide you as you take on caregiving and other important responsibilities.

Reach out to your loved one’s nurse navigator, patient navigator or social worker. This professional should serve as your touchstone throughout the care continuum and can answer questions and relay information to others on the team. Here’s what to ask for immediately:

  • Authorization to receive medical information about your loved one. This will involve having your name added to your loved one’s Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form, which covers patient privacy and other safeguards.
  • Contact information for all members of the health care team, including after-hours numbers.
  • A schedule of upcoming appointments, with office telephone numbers. Your nurse navigator can indicate which appointments are vital for you to attend.
  • A map with directions to every facility your loved one will need to go, and interior maps of any large buildings unfamiliar to you.

Make the most of medical appointments. The first few office visits will be filled with information. Consider taking a friend, especially for initial appointments. It can be very helpful to have someone along who is less emotionally involved than you are to keep a clearer head and absorb information.

  • Find out the exact lung cancer diagnosis, including type and stage, and biomarker test results.
  • Ask for a copy of the treatment plan and any information that will help you learn more about your loved one’s type of lung cancer, scheduled procedures and treatments and what to expect.
  • Take a list of your loved one’s medications, including dosage, to every appointment, as well as a list of contact information for other specialists he or she is seeing.
  • Prepare a list of questions beforehand to take to appointments and ensure all concerns are addressed.
  • Keep appointment notes with dates in a notebook so this information is in one place. This will also make it easier for other family members who want detailed information.
  • If you cannot attend an appointment and your loved one has a mobile phone, call in to the appointment and be put on speaker phone so you can hear the information and ask questions.

Realize the importance of medication adherence. This is especially true if your loved one is facing a chronic condition (one that is long-term or lifelong). The doctor may prescribe several medications and schedules can be challenging, so set up a system of reminders, calendars or checklists to help your loved one take the right dose of the right medication at the right time. Check out medication trackers online and ask your nurse navigator for advice.

Watch for side effect symptoms and report them immediately. Before treatment begins, get a list of potential side effects for the specific treatments and medications. Learn which side effects to watch for and what to do if they occur. Addressing symptoms promptly can improve your loved one’s quality of life and help better manage treatment. Communicate with the medical team when side effects first start so they can be managed right away. Some can be dangerous if left untreated, and you could help prevent a potentially life-threatening situation.

Accept offers of help by giving people specific tasks. Shouldering all the responsibilities takes a toll on you over the long term. So when family members, neighbors, coworkers and friends, book clubs or places of worship offer help, accept it gladly. Make a list of things someone else can do, from providing transportation and running errands to handling yardwork, vehicle maintenance, home maintenance, vet appointments and more, then share that list with others.

Take advantage of local support resources. You may be surprised by the wealth of resources available right in your community to assist and support people who have cancer. Your loved one’s navigator, social worker or case manager can assist with a list of these resources and ideas for how to access them. Accompany your loved one to a meeting if he or she is hesitant to go alone, or go on your own. People who have successfully lived through the experiences you and your loved one are now facing can be invaluable sources of support, information and friendship.


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