A person with lung cancer will likely have many questions throughout their cancer journey. It is important to work with a doctor who will be patient and precise when answering these questions.

A lung cancer diagnosis can stir up many emotions and even more questions. Honest, open discussions with healthcare professionals are important throughout the process. From diagnosis to dismissal after treatment, people with cancer need a great deal of information so they can make informed decisions and feel prepared for what’s ahead.

Initially, it’s not uncommon for people to be unsure of what to ask. This list of questions can help guide a person with lung cancer, as well as their support network, which may include family, friends, and other caregivers. More questions may come later, but this is a start.

After a diagnosis, there is a lot to understand about lung cancer. The type of lung cancer determines treatment options and outlook, among other factors.

These questions can help a person understand their diagnosis:

  • What type of lung cancer is it?
  • What stage is the lung cancer? What does this mean?
  • Where exactly is the cancer? Has it spread beyond the original spot?
  • Are any more tests needed before discussing treatment options?
  • Does the tumor have any gene changes or mutations? How does this affect treatment options and outlook?
  • Should blood or a sample of the tumor tissue be sent for testing before determining treatment options?
  • Are there any other doctors or healthcare professionals to consult before the next steps?

Questions about smoking cessation

Cigarette smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer in the United States. Only about 10% of lung cancer patients were not previously smokers or were not exposed to secondhand smoke.

A lung cancer diagnosis may prompt questions about smoking habits and the desire to quit. These questions can guide that conversation:

  • What are the benefits of quitting smoking when someone has lung cancer?
  • How can quitting smoking help someone’s outlook?
  • How can a doctor help someone quit?
  • What other resources are available?
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Once the healthcare team understands the type of lung cancer, its stage, and any genetic changes, the next step is to begin deciding on a treatment plan.

There is a lot to consider when deciding on treatment plans for lung cancer. Some questions that may help a person gather information for a better understanding include:

  • What treatment options are available?
  • Who will be overseeing the treatment plan?
  • Does one need to go to a different hospital or facility for treatment?
  • Which treatment plan do most doctors recommend? Why?
  • Does one need to see another healthcare professional or doctor outside of a primary care physician?
  • Who is eligible for newer treatments like targeted therapies or immunotherapy?
  • What is the goal of treatment? Will this treatment eliminate cancer? Or will it slow tumor growth for a better quality of life?
  • What are the possible side effects of this treatment? Are there long-term complications to consider?
  • How will this treatment affect day-to-day life? Will it impact one’s ability to work?
  • Will this treatment affect one’s sex life?
  • Will this treatment prevent one from becoming pregnant or having kids?
  • Who is eligible for clinical trials? Where can someone find more information?
  • How quickly does a person need to decide on a treatment?
  • What are the options if this treatment does not work or if lung cancer comes back?

Questions about treatments may be more unique to what a person is experiencing. Different treatment plans may vary in length, financial cost, and side effects.

The following questions can still help guide conversation:

  • What can be done to manage treatment side effects?
  • What can be done to manage the complications of lung cancer during treatment?
  • How does one know if the treatment is working?
  • What symptoms or side effects should be brought to a doctor’s attention right away?
  • Does one need to change any habits during treatment? Should one eat different foods? Exercise?
  • Can any other medical conditions interfere with treatment? Can any other medications interfere with treatment?
  • Are there any support services for people undergoing lung cancer treatment? How does one connect with them?

Once treatment has ended, a new phase of cancer starts. More treatment may be needed, or regular follow-up scans may begin. These questions can help a person plan for what comes next:

  • Was the treatment successful? Is the cancer gone?
  • Are any further treatments needed?
  • What are the odds the cancer will come back? What symptoms should one watch for?
  • Are routine tests or scans necessary to monitor for tumor growth or return?
  • What long-term side effects or complications could someone experience? What symptoms will they cause?
  • Is there anything to do to reduce the chances that the cancer returns?
  • Do family members of a survivor have a higher risk of lung cancer? Should they be tested?

It is important that both patients and professionals feel like they can work together, understand one another, and make choices that benefit a person’s well-being and future.

If a healthcare professional is not as helpful or forthcoming as a person with cancer needs, one should not hesitate to seek support and answers from another professional.

Treating cancer requires a great deal of communication, understanding, and time. Working with a healthcare team provides a person with lung cancer with resources for answers and trusted guidance.