Survivorship Care Planning
More people with lung cancer are living longer and leading active lives because they continue to monitor their health. Once treatment is finished, or as you continue with maintenance therapy, you will need a survivorship care plan to help you move forward successfully.
Ideally, your survivorship care plan starts at the time of your diagnosis, but often, this detailed plan is given to you after primary treatment ends. Your survivorship care plan should be a summary of your treatment, along with recommendations for follow-up care.
Follow-up care helps check for health problems that may occur months or years after treatment ends, including other types of cancer. A follow-up schedule will include:
- Appointment schedule for ongoing monitoring.
- Maintenance medications or therapies, including type, dosage, frequency and duration.
- Referral(s) for cancer rehabilitation, such as physical or occupational therapy.
- Information about your risk of a recurrence or a second cancer and long-term treatment-related side effects and late effects.
- Recommended screening guidelines for other types of cancer. Ask your doctor how they apply to you.
Telehealth may offer you a convenient option for staying on schedule with follow-up visits. Telehealth is the delivery of health care from a distance using technology such as computers, cameras, video conferencing, the internet and smartphones.
Ask your health care team if telehealth is available for you and if it is covered by insurance. These appointments are conducted through patient portals or on another video or web conferencing platform. Typically, you will receive instructions in advance from your health care provider’s office on how to prepare for the appointment.
If the follow-up care plan you receive does not include recommendations for survivorship care, your doctor, nurse navigator or case worker can help you make one. Visit PatientResource.com/SurvivorshipPlan.pdf to download these tools to help you get started.
Lead a lifestyle that promotes physical and emotional wellness
Many people with cancer share this sentiment: “I have cancer, but it doesn’t have me.” They aren’t willing to give cancer any more than it takes. Instead, they choose to move forward with a positive attitude, finding things that offer them joy as well as some much-needed control in their lives. Think about the daily choices that can help you get the most out of your life.
Start by learning about the advantages of choosing a healthy lifestyle. Use your knowledge to partner with your health care team. While they lead the way medically, you can focus on moving forward and achieving physical and emotional wellness.
Eat a well-balanced diet
Good nutrition not only benefits your physical health, it also improves your mood. During cancer treatment, and especially when your treatment plan includes surgery, your body needs more nutrients, calories and protein to boost the immune system, fight fatigue and help maintain muscle mass.
Following a healthy diet, however, is challenging when you experience appetite loss, which is one of the most common side effects of lung cancer treatment. A registered dietitian can help you develop a nutrition plan that also addresses side effects that could affect your eating habits. These suggestions may also help:
- Eat when you are hungry. Don’t worry about set meal times.
- Aim for small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day.
- Choose soothing foods, especially if you have mouth sores. Smoothies and soups are good sources of liquids and nutrients.
- Conserve your energy because eating can take considerable effort. Ask a caregiver or friend to help shop for and prepare your meals so you can focus on eating.
- Ask about an appetite stimulant.
- Do your best to consume more fluids, including water, to decrease your risk for dehydration. Dehydration can increase the severity of side effects.
Staying active is an important aspect of improving and maintaining your health and emotional well-being before, during and after cancer treatment.
Physical exercise, no matter how great or small, can help reduce your side effects, decrease your risk of infection and shorten treatment recovery time. Weight training and daily walks, for example, can strengthen muscles and decrease fatigue. Your doctor may also recommend breathing exercises to increase your lung capacity. Ask your doctor to recommend activities that are best for you.
You may not see the value in avoiding cigarettes and other tobacco products after a lung cancer diagnosis. However, studies show that continuing to use them can reduce the effectiveness of your treatment and are linked to slower healing. Learn more about the benefits of being tobacco-free in It’s never too late to stop smoking, page 8.
Plan for happy occasions
It’s important to have things to look forward to, such as weddings, graduations and vacations. Make your medical team aware of these events so that treatment can be worked around them. If you use supplemental oxygen and plan to travel by airplane, check with the doctor and the airline regarding taking a battery-powered portable oxygen concentrator with you.
Maintain your sexual health
Your diagnosis and treatment can affect your sexual health. You may have a decreased sex drive, difficulties with arousal, pain during intercourse, or the delay or absence of orgasm. You also may feel less desirable. Your doctor may look for physical factors that contribute, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Sometimes controlling these can correct the problem.
Addressing sexual issues with your doctor or nurse is crucial. Don’t be embarrassed. Sexual health is a vital part of life.