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A diagnosis of lung cancer can be overwhelming. This fact sheet will tell you:

  • How to prepare for your appointments
  • What to do if you face dyspnea, or shortness of breath
  • What questions will help you learn more about your diagnosis

The Importance of Communicating With Your Health Care Team

Your team of doctors, nurses and social workers are there to help. Here are some tips for your appointments.

  • Bring a list of questions. This will help you remember important things to ask. Write down or record the responses so that you do not forget them.

  • Consider bringing a loved one with you. A friend or a family member can help ask questions and provide emotional support.

  • Ask questions about costs. Knowing how much your treatment and medications might cost can help you plan ahead and focus more attention on getting better.

If your doctors and nurses do not know every answer, they may be able to guide you to those who do.

What Is Dyspnea and Can It Affect Me?

You may experience shortness of breath, or dyspnea, during treatment. The more you struggle for air, the harder your lungs work to get oxygen, and the more distressed you feel. Talk to your health care team if you have experienced dyspnea or about how you can possibly prevent dyspnea.

If you’re experiencing dyspnea, prepare for your doctor’s appointment by keeping a record of your breathing problems. Some questions to record include these: How long does each episode last? When does it happen? When does it feel worst?

Questions That You May Want to Ask Your Health Care Team

The following questions should help you learn key information about your diagnosis and situation.

“What type of lung cancer do I have?” Lung cancer happens when cells in one or both lungs begin to change and grow out of control. The two main types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

“What stage is my lung cancer?” A tumor’s stage means its size and how much it has spread in the body. The higher the number (I, II, III or IV), the more it has spread.

“What are my treatment options?” There are many kinds of treatments for lung cancer. These can include surgery, radiation, targeted treatment and chemotherapy.

“Is there a clinical trial available to me?” Clinical trials test new approaches based on known and effective treatments for cancer. Doctors often urge people to take part in clinical trials if they are available.

“Is surgery an option for me?” If surgery is an option, your health care team can help you get ready. They should be able to explain what the surgery does, what recovery is like and what the effects may be.

“How can I cope with my emotions?” In addition to loved ones, you can find help in places of worship, support groups and counseling. Activities such as meditation and relaxation exercises can also help.

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This fact sheet is supported by Bristol Myers Squibb.

Last updated Thursday, March 16, 2023

The information presented in this publication is provided for your general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified health professionals who are aware of your specific situation. We encourage you to take information and questions back to your individual health care provider as a way of creating a dialogue and partnership about your cancer and your treatment.

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