Living with Lung Cancer

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Contents

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Emotions

How to deal with how you feel

Feeling ‘down’ and being anxious are common in people with lung cancer. There are things you can do to cope with these feelings and there’s plenty of help available if you need it.

It’s good to talk

Talking about the things that are troubling you and sharing your feelings with your partner, family or friends can be a great help. Telling them about your diagnosis and helping them understand your cancer means they’ll be in a better position to help you if you need them to.

Seeing friends and family, working, taking part in social activities and hobbies, and keeping physically fit can all help with your mental wellbeing and emotional state.

Identity and image

Some people face identity and self-image issues because of their cancer. Physical changes can affect the way you look and feel about yourself. Hair loss and weight loss are two of the more common concerns. Loss of self-esteem or self-worth are also common when people can, say, no longer work or must rely heavily on a loved to help manage everyday tasks.

Feelings of guilt – often related to smoking – are also common. This can be made worse by ill-informed views that create a stigma around lung cancer; the ‘did you smoke?’ question implies it’s somehow your fault even if that’s not the intention. All these pressures can add to upset and raise the risk of mental wellbeing issues.

Mind your mind

It is common for people with lung cancer to go through periods of depression or other psychological problems during and after treatment. While depression is known to affect people with cancer in general, a study by the Scottish Government and Cancer Research UK found major depression - the most severe - was most common in people with lung cancer.

And the Scottish clinical guideline on lung cancer says 43% of lung cancer patients have significant psychological distress - anxiety or depression.

Clinical depression can be a serious illness. Symptoms can include tiredness and trouble sleeping, loss of interest in life, anxiety, irritation, having no appetite and losing your sex drive. In severe cases, depression can bring thoughts of suicide.

There are well-established treatments for depression. If you think you might be depressed, speak to your lung cancer nurse specialist, GP, or another health professional caring for you about what support is available.

If you do have depression, you might be given antidepressants, or get an appointment with a psychiatrist. You may be offered such things as talking therapies or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Help and support

Watch this video on emotions and mental health from the Roy Castle Foundation:

If you become distressed and need immediate help but are unable to see your doctor or lung cancer nurse, you should visit A&E. You can also get help and support from:

  • The MIND helpline – call 0300 123 3393 (local rate from landlines, mobile charges vary)

  • Your local community mental health team (CMHT) or crisis and home treatment team. Some teams run a 24-hour service. Social services will be able to tell you what’s available near you.

  • The Samaritans - call free 24-hours a day on 116 123

Help you can listen to

The NHS Moodzone has a series of mental wellbeing podcasts or audio guides you can listen to any time. They cover things including low mood and depression, anxiety control, sleep problems and more.

See ‘Audio guides to boost your mood’ in the NHS Moodzone.

Content on HealthUnlocked does not replace the relationship between you and doctors or other healthcare professionals nor the advice you receive from them.

Never delay seeking advice or dialling emergency services because of something that you have read on HealthUnlocked.