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Lung Cancer Care
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

Coping with the diagnosis of cancer is only the beginning of the journey. The entire process of diagnosis, treatment and changes in lifestyle are day by day hurdles for both caregiver and loved one.

Lung cancer’s association with smoking, second hand smoke and environmental irritants such as asbestos are factors that modify how one handles the diagnosis. The feelings of guilt about smoking or job choices (in the case of asbestos handling) are important to address with caring professionals and your loved one.

Lung Cancer Variations

Small and large cell lung cancers can be “mixed,” creating three categories of lung cancer which can affect the lungs. Generally, cancers are designated “small cell” or “non-small cell.” These cancers are further subdivided into adenocarcinoma, histopathologic and other designations that pertain to the shape of the cancer cells and/or their location.

The outlook for patients with various cancers is improving and changing with each clinical study and each individual diagnosed with cancer.

Diagnostics, Staging and Classification

Stage 1 and Stage 2 tumors of the lung are treated by cutting the tumor out and in some cases, following with radiation therapy to inhibit re-growth. If the individual cannot undergo surgery, radiation alone is used to destroy the tumor. In some cases, tumors can be “lasered,” which literally burns the tumor away. The laser can be used via a flexible scope which is inserted into the lung while the person is mildly sedated.

More complicated is the Stage 3 lung cancer division, where patients may have lymph nodes with cancer cells, or cancer cells in another area such as the mediastinum, the area separating the right and left sides of the chest. The affected sections of the lung indicate which “type” of Stage 3 process is going on and treatment selection is presented accordingly.

Stage 4 and some Stage 3 cancer patients are given the options of “comfort care” or chemotherapy. Individuals with Stage 4 or “recurrent” cancer may have measurable benefits from chemotherapy, more so than being made comfortable.

Caregiver Coping

Depression and anxiety over the diagnosis affect caregivers, sometimes more drastically than the loved one. The dynamic of the personal relationship can influence whether caregiver or loved one “shows” the anxiety and depression more profoundly.

With help from medical professionals involved in your loved one’s care, caregivers can be guided to other professionals and groups that focus on coping with the diagnosis. Today’s cancer centers focus on the healing approach for everyone involved, not just the patient.

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