5 ways to cope with lung cancer treatment

by Dr Amit Jotwani

Diseases such as lung cancer and their treatments can take a toll on mental and physical health, apart from impacting the quality of life. However, staying positive and adopting healthy coping mechanisms throughout the treatment can improve the outcomes by maximising healing and recovery.

Lung cancer treatmentWays to cope with lung cancer treatment

Understanding the treatment

It is important to talk to your doctor about the available treatment options, duration of the treatment, and what to expect during the treatment. 

Some of the questions you can ask your doctor include:

  • At what stage is my cancer and what does that mean?
  • What are the treatment options available to me?
  • What are the possible side effects of the different treatment options?
  • How will cancer and its treatment affect my day-to-day life?
  • Are the emotions I am experiencing normal? How can I get help with managing my emotions?
  • Whom can I contact in case of a medical emergency?
  • Are there any dietary requirements I should follow?
  • Are there any specific activities I should avoid?
  • When and how frequently can I exercise?
Eat a balanced, healthy diet

Adequate nutrition can help you cope with lung cancer treatment. Here are a few tips on ensuring that your diet is healthy:

  • Include plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and sources of protein such as dairy products, whole pulses, nuts and lean meats such as fish in your diet.
  • Hydrate yourself with healthy fluids such as water, clear soups and broths.
  • Get adequate rest and sleep.
  • Consult a dietitian on how to tailor your meals to achieve maximum nutrition when you are unable to eat regular portions of food due to the side effects of radiation or chemotherapy.
Practise breathing exercises

Breathlessness is a common concern for those with lung cancer and can cause panic, which in turn worsens breathing. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing difficulty with breathing. 

Try these tips to breathe better and to feel calmer:

  • Sit comfortably and breathe out slowly. 
  • Feel your diaphragm by placing your hand on the stomach and coughing. Keep your hand on your breathing muscles so you know you are breathing deeply.
  • Practise gentle breathing from the lower part of your chest, at a normal rate. Avoid fast breathing as it can make you tired.
  • Breathe in deeply and gently through your nose, and breathe out through the mouth.
  • Practise with five to ten breaths at a time, as many times during the day as possible.

An occupational therapist can help you with exercises to improve breathing.

Understand the physical and emotional effects surrounding lung cancer and its treatment

Lung cancer and its treatment may cause drastic changes in your body, both physically and emotionally. This might affect the way you feel about yourself. For instance, breathlessness is a symptom of lung cancer and it can make you anxious. 

These points can help you to know the expectations from the treatment and condition, and stay confident in your journey-

  • Physical changes like weight loss is common during the treatment, and may affect the way you relate with people. Consulting a dietician may help you balance these issues.
  • A feeling of overall fatigue (tiredness and lethargic feeling) is another symptom observed as the treatment progresses. Ample rest or gentle physical exercise can help you cope.
  • Treatment options like surgery may induce pain after the operation. Change in the medications or a few relaxation techniques might help.

We recommend consulting a medical specialist to know the best options to cope up with these post/on-treatment journey, as they can help assess your condition better.

Support groups and events

One of the practical coping mechanisms is to speak with people who have experienced or are experiencing similar conditions. Cancer support groups are now widely encouraged in countries like India, where people with similar conditions can share their emotions, feelings and together stay confident in their journey of managing their cancer. 

Also, events such as Onco.com’s TYHO (Talk Your Heart Out) invites cancer survivors and people currently undergoing treatment, encouraging them to speak about their condition, and stay strong and mentally healthy throughout their journey. TYHO was founded in April 2019 and conducted its 12th support gathering at Bangalore recently on the 12th of January 2020.

You can follow Onco.com’s Facebook page, to get information and updates on TYHO’s upcoming events.

For more information on lung cancer treatment and the ways to optimize its outcome, consult a lung cancer specialist in your area.


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