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Management and Support

Diagnosed with lung cancer? You are not alone. There are many lung cancer support options and strategies that can help you regain a sense of control.

Emotional reactions to a lung cancer diagnosis

It is completely normal to be upset when you are given a lung cancer diagnosis. Emotional distress is very much a part of the experience of having a cancer diagnosis. A lung cancer diagnosis changes people’s lives.

Following the immediate shock of hearing about a diagnosis, you may feel anger, fear, guilt, sadness and anxiety, often cycling around and around. Many people with lung cancer also describe feeling lonely, confused, helpless and isolated at different times during their treatment. Intense emotions can surface and you might feel overwhelmed and a sense of being out of control.

However, it is important to realize that you are not alone; you do not have to suffer in silence on your own. There are others who can help you cope with these emotions and manage the situation. You may find the following strategies are helpful to regain a sense of control over what is happening to you:

  • Make a list of questions to ask your doctor or health care team members
  • Take an active part in the decision-making about your treatments
  • Accept help when it is offered but do not hesitate to ask for support
  • Think about what is important to you and what you would like to see happen
  • Set achievable goals and plan how to reach them
  • Talk with others about how you are feeling (talk with other patients or with health care professionals)

Most individuals with cancer experience emotional upset following their diagnosis. At times, these emotions can interfere with your daily activities, your relationships, and concentrating or making decisions. It is important to realize that these feelings of anxiety, depression, and fear are very common and are a normal part of response to a life-changing situation like having lung cancer. It is also important to realize that you do not have to deal with these on your own. There are supports available to help you and your family. Talk with you cancer care team to learn about the programs and support services in your local area.

You may find the following strategies are helpful for you in coping with your emotions:

  • Remember that emotional reactions are completely normal when dealing with a difficult situation; everyone will experience some degree of emotional upset when faced with a diagnosis like lung cancer
  • Learn as much as you can about your illness and the resources available to you
    • Think about the reasons you might be feeling the way you do – what is the source of your emotions? What did you do in the past to deal with similar emotions?
  • Take a look at your support system (family, friends, etc.) and evaluate its strengths; who is available to support you emotionally?
  • Find someone you are comfortable sharing your feelings with to discuss what you are going through; if there is no one available, consider writing in a journal
  • Look for support groups or cancer support organizations (in-person, online, or both)
  • Consider a consultation with a psychosocial or supportive/palliative care counsellor or your primary care physician/family doctor
  • Take care of yourself (eat well, get enough sleep, reduce stress, nurture spirituality, etc.)

Where can I turn for support and assistance in coping with lung cancer?

There are a number of ways to find help in your local area:

  • Speak with your physician or cancer care team members; often social workers or oncology nurses are aware of resources available in your local area
  • Contact the Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-886-786-3934); you can talk with a cancer information specialist about all aspects of cancer; you or your family can make the call
  • Search the internet for online support groups or chat/discussion groups

Talking to people who are going through the same process as you can be very valuable. This can help you feel like you are not alone. It is also a great way to get advice on how to handle different situations that can arise. Others will likely have experienced some of the same issues you have experiences. Talking with other patients can also help you get a better understanding of the disease and how it affects a person.

Peer support programs exist in cancer centres, local communities, and online. Choosing which of these to become involved in (or whether to become involved with them at all) is up to you and how you like to engage with others. Some programs meet in person and others occur over the internet.

Various peer support programs are available. Some programs focus on cancer education, while others provide a way to meet other people who have been diagnosed with the disease. Speak to the staff at your cancer centre or call your local cancer support organization to find out what programs they offer.

Some organizations also offer peer-to-peer telephone support services that provide both educational and emotional support. There are also a number of online programs available in various formats, including discussion boards, chat lines, blogs, and real-time facilitated support groups. Some people find simply reading about other patients’ experiences is helpful.

Where can my family turn for support and assistance in coping with lung cancer?

Cancer has an impact on family members and friends in addition to the individual diagnosed with the disease. Family members are often shocked by the diagnosis and feel uncertain about how to help you as a patient. They will also experience emotional responses to the situation and need to find ways to cope themselves.

It is important to acknowledge that these reactions are normal and family members may benefit from seeking support from others in the same situation. They will also have many of the same questions that you have as a patient. They will benefit from understanding more about lung cancer, its treatments, and the possible emotional reactions.

Family members and friends can worry about upsetting you if they share what they are feeling. In this case, support groups for caregivers may provide a more comfortable setting for talking to others about the challenges they are facing as family members. Many cancer support organizations offer these types of programs.

You may find it helpful to talk together as a family about what is important to each of you and make plans together about how things will be handled during the times of treatment. It is valuable to continue with usual family activities and ways of doing things; but, there many need to be some changes in who does what for a time. Household, yardwork, and childcare responsibilities may have to be changed.

You may also have questions or concerns about intimate relationships. Cancer can affect how you feel about yourself and have an influence on sexuality. Sexuality can be a very personal issue and one that is difficult to talk about. However, an open and honest conversation often offers the best chance of coping with the changes from cancer and its treatment. Do not hesitate to talk with your physician or cancer care team about the changes you are experiencing with your body.