Living with Lung Cancer

299 enrolled
Contents

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.

Living with lung cancer

Ways to live well with lung cancer

The key physical challenges on your daily life are likely to be tiredness, feeling weak and breathlessness. Either, or often both, can make otherwise simple tasks like climbing stairs or pushing a vacuum cleaner far more difficult than before diagnosis or even impossible.

While your medical team will be able to help, there’s a lot you can do to manage these things in a non-medical way. Despite your lung cancer, you also need to try to keep generally fit and healthy – this can make you feel better and helps you cope with the rigours of treatment.

Pace yourself

At times, particularly during periods of treatment, you are likely to feel more tired than usual. You might also become breathless when doing such things as gardening or shopping. But you can often change the way you do things to make them less demanding. The Roy Castle Foundation recommends three ‘P’s to help you:

  • Prioritise – do the things most important to you

  • Plan – think ahead about how you can make a task easier

  • Pace yourself – alternate activity with rest periods

You can use simple equipment to make things easier. For example, sit on a stool for gardening, and make sure chairs indoors are high enough for you to easily sit down and get up. There are also adaptions, like a grab rail in the bathroom, that can make life easier. You can ask your occupational therapist for advice on what would help you.

Food, glorious food

Healthy eating and good health go hand in hand. A poor diet can make you more susceptible to other illnesses and infections. To stay well you need a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods and you need the right amounts to keep you at a healthy weight. Weight loss is common in lung cancer. If this is a problem, you could seek advice from your dietician.

Some chemotherapy drugs can cause your sense of taste to change or diminish. During treatment, food and drink may not taste right; some people find food has almost no taste. This should go back to normal once the treatment has finished. In the meantime, you could try eating new things, perhaps with spices or herbs you’ve not tried before. Because the flavours are strong and new, you are less likely to think they ‘taste funny’ or taste of nothing.

Keep on moving

If you already exercise regularly, keep doing it as long as your medical team think it’s safe. Exercise keeps you energetic. It can lift your mood, improve your appetite, prevent constipation, improve blood pressure, and keep you stronger and better balanced.

Almost any physical activity counts as exercise: for example, walking, climbing stairs, cycling, swimming, gardening, dancing. If you can’t get around easily, there are exercises you can do sitting down on the NHS website. Speak to your lung cancer nurse specialist or doctor about physical activity programs you could join.

Breathe … and relax

Watch this Roy Castle Foundation video on tiredness, exercise and relaxation:

Being breathless causes you to increase the speed at which you breathe. This causes anxiety, tension and overuse of the muscles in your shoulders and upper chest. By involving more muscles than necessary, you use more energy and your breathing can become shallow, so you get less air in. This can make you more breathless … and more anxious.

Anxiety often brings increased muscle tension, such as hunched shoulders, clenched fists or feeling a knot in your stomach. Learning to relax can be a useful way to control anxiety and breathlessness.

There are several techniques you can practise to help control your breathing, and exercises to learn to relax and ease the tension.

Cheers, but not too much

Having lung cancer doesn’t mean you can’t socialise over a drink or two. But, along with everyone else, you should stay well within the government’s alcohol units guidance. Regular heavy drinking ups your risk for several other types of cancer, along with heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and more.

During treatment it is normally OK to have a little alcohol, but alcohol can interfere with some chemotherapy drugs. Your doctor or lung cancer nurse specialist will be able to tell you if it is safe to drink with your chemotherapy drugs.

If you smoke, think about stopping. Some people with lung cancer carry on smoking on the basis that ‘things can’t get worse’. But there’s good evidence that people who keep smoking after diagnosis have higher levels of pain, fatigue, breathlessness and eating difficulties.

You can get help to quit from your doctor, pharmacist or a specialist stop-smoking clinic.

Know your rights as a patient

As an NHS patient you have a number of rights covering things like access to treatment, your quality of care, your right to choice and involvement in decisions.

Guidance on how lung cancer should be treated has been issued by NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

See the clinical guideline ‘Lung cancer: diagnosis and management’ at NICE

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.