While your multidisciplinary health care team focuses on your treatment and managing side effects, you are in charge of the things you can control, such as your attitude, diet, activity level, sleep, stress management and support network. Though your role is different from that of your doctor, it is just as important and can make a valuable difference in your care and quality of life.
Following are strategies you can adopt during and after lung cancer treatment.
Focus on Nutrition and Hydration
Following a nutritious, well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids can help you overcome some challenges such as fatigue, appetite loss, stress and depression.
A registered dietitian can help you develop a nutrition plan that addresses your body’s increased nutritional needs and manage side effects that affect your ability to eat, such as dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, changes in taste and fatigue.
Appetite loss is also common during treatment. The resulting weight loss is not just weight you can stand to lose, it is also loss of muscle mass, which you need for walking, breathing and swallowing. It is important to ensure you are eating the calories and nutrients your body needs.
Staying hydrated is also crucial. Side effects of certain drug therapies, such as diarrhea or vomiting, and radiation therapy can cause dehydration, which may make nausea, fatigue and headaches worse. Drinking water can help. Ask your doctor or a dietitian about the amount of fluid appropriate for you.
Exercises for people with lung cancer
Aim for Physical Activity
Being active can help maintain muscle, reduce fatigue and improve your emotional well-being. The thought of engaging in physical activity may feel too challenging and intimidating, but any movement – not just strenuous exercising – is beneficial for people with lung cancer.
Focus on avoiding inactivity and get moving. Try not to be completely sedentary. Think about activities that you enjoy doing. It can be as simple as walking, turning on some music and dancing, or going to the mailbox. You might even set a clock to remind you to get up and walk 5 to 10 minutes every hour.
Your doctor may recommend breathing and stretching exercises to increase your lung capacity before or after surgery and to extend your range of motion and reduce stiffness (see Exercises for people with lung cancer).
Get Enough Sleep
Cancer treatment can affect your sleep pattern, so it is important that you try to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night. Steps you can take include the following:
- Start a habit of going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time.
- Wind down before bed. That includes shutting down your screens, such as your TV and phone.
- Turn on relaxing music.
- Avoid snacking, drinking caffeine and exercising too late into the evening.
Talk with your doctor if you have trouble maintaining a good sleep schedule.
Stop Tobacco Use
If you currently smoke or use tobacco products, it is important to stop and to avoid smoky environments.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is often stressful, but certain strategies can help, such as spending time outside, attending social events, reading a book, listening to music, calling a friend, joining a support group or writing in a journal. Other suggestions include meditation, yoga, mental imagery or visualization, and relaxed breathing.
Ask About Sexual Health
Treatment can affect the way you feel about yourself and how you relate intimately to your partner. Many people face decreased libido (sex drive), inability to achieve or maintain arousal, pain during intercourse, or the delay or absence of orgasm. For people with lung cancer, the cardiopulmonary system may not be sufficient for sexual activity. Talk with your doctor before treatment begins to find out what to expect and when it is safe to resume sexual activity after treatment.
Many advocacy organizations offer peer-to-peer support that pairs you with someone with the same diagnosis. Hearing from someone who is going through a similar experience can be invaluable.
The Lung Cancer Registry is a database of patient information that is donated by patients or by a loved one of someone who faced lung cancer. It is a direct way to improve the future of lung cancer treatment by simply sharing insights and experiences.
Participants provide data by answering questions from a home computer or mobile device. No medical visits are required, and no biopsies or specimens need to be submitted. And, it is free to join. To get involved, go to www.lungcancerregistry.org.