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Lung Cancer Guide photo Understanding The Issues

Introduction

You are in the middle of one of the biggest challenges anyone can face. You've been told you have lung cancer. You're probably uncertain and frightened. You are being given a lot of information. And, you have many decisions to make.

One of the hardest things about having lung cancer is dealing with the healthcare system. You may be working with a lot of new doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, and the words they use may seem like a foreign language. These doctors, nurses, social workers, and others will be working with you to provide the best possible medical care. It is up to you to decide how you will work with them and how you will cope with this challenge. Your doctor may want you to visit another doctor to get a second opinion, or you may choose to get a second opinion. At the end of this section will be a form that you'll be able to print out where you can list the names and phone numbers of the doctors, nurses, and other people who will be part of your "healthcare team".

For some people, getting a lot of information and having to take part in medical decisions may make having the disease even harder. It may be better for these people to have most of the decisions made by their doctors. Other people find it easier to cope by learning all they can about their cancer and its treatment. It's okay to be in either group or somewhere in between. Only you know the best way for you to deal with this major event in your life.

You are not alone, though it may feel like it at times. You join the 170,000 people this year who will be diagnosed with lung cancer. You also join the five million Americans who are living with all types of cancer.

This is a time when you may need to rely even more on your family and friends. You may also find it helpful to meet other people who have lung cancer, because they are going through the same thing you are.

One of the most confusing things about a diagnosis like lung cancer is all of the information that you will get. You may find that at different times during your cancer experience you may want different amounts of information. Be honest with your doctors and nurses. Tell them how much information you want or need. And if those wants or need change, let them know.

At times when you do want information, you may find it hard to really hear and remember everything you're told. Many people with cancer feel this way. Studies have shown that patients forget a lot of the information they hear within minutes. The following are some tips on how to better understand and remember the information you get from your healthcare team:

(There is a form later in this section to help you write down this information.)

  • It may be helpful to have a family member or friend go with you to doctors' appointments or to therapy appointments. Having someone go with you can make the visits less stressful and can help you remember what the doctor tells you. On the other hand, you may prefer to be by yourself when you receive information. The choice is yours.
  • Repeat to the healthcare provider what you thought she or he said. This will let that person know what you heard. Then, if needed, she or he can clear up any confusion.
  • Take notes during the visit and/or take a tape recorder with you. Be sure to ask your doctor in advance if it okay for you to tape the conversation. Explain to your doctor that it would help you to understand better and to follow her or his advice.
  • Ask for an explanation of words that you do not know. (Or, check the Glossary in this section). As a new word is mentioned, write it down.
  • If you want more information, ask how you can get it. Your nurse or doctor can tell you about pamphlets, books, videotapes or other things that can help you understand the procedure or treatment he or she is explaining. Your public library, medical library (at a local college or university), or local video store may be good sources of information. The Cancer Information area on this Web site is a good reference point. Maybe you really don't want to know more, but would feel better if a member of your family or a friend know the information. Work this out with that person ahead of time.
  • Repeat to the healthcare provider what you thought she or he said. This will let that person know what you heard. Then, if needed, she or he can clear up any confusion.
  • Sometimes the people who are most helpful are those who have been through a similar experience. Ask your doctor or nurse for the names and phone numbers of people who have the same type of cancer that you have and who have agreed that they would be willing to visit with other patients like you.


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