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When you're dealing with cancer, you may face a few obstacles

The good news? There are people and resources to help.

If you or your loved one is fighting lung cancer, you're likely facing a few unfamiliar situations. You will encounter new physicians and specialists, new financial and insurance situations, and a whole new language describing your cancer and your treatment. If you're feeling everything has shifted—people, places, and priorities—it might help to talk with someone who has experience in this area. That helpful guide could be a navigator or someone similar.


Meet Your Care Team

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What if a navigator isn't available in your area? Advocates and lung cancer support groups can help—no matter where you live.


If possible, ask your oncology team to connect you with a navigator-type professional right away.

Don't let common obstacles stand between you and the care you deserve

Need help locating or understanding disease and treatment information?

Have you found it difficult to process the details about your lung cancer or treatment information in a way you can easily understand? You aren't alone. Cancer can be a complex subject to simplify and some of the medical terms aren't easy to pronounce or spell. Ask your oncologist for clarification or even for suggested reading.

If you have a preference for a language other than English or if you have difficulty reading and would rather learn about lung cancer and treatment options through lectures or videos, this is an obstacle that can be addressed quickly. Ask your oncology team (your oncologist, oncology nurse, or social worker) for their recommended information sources.

Do you need help getting to and from medical appointments?

Transportation can be an obstacle for some people. Is your treatment located in a medical facility many miles away? Maybe your treatment center is right down the street, but you don’t feel you have a support team that will drive you there? Getting to your treatment consistently and on time is important. And that's why there's a whole community out there willing and ready to give you a ride when you need it.

These organizations are specifically designed to help people with cancer get to where they need to go. Reach out and ask for a FREE ride.

Are you struggling with emotional stress, even distress?

Are some of your emotions making it hard for you to manage your treatment? Maybe you've lost the motivation to continue treatment. Maybe you’ve lost hope. These emotions can be very common in people with lung cancer. One suggestion might be to 'own and share your emotions.' That could mean talking these feelings out with others—your oncology nurse or social worker. Or you could share your feelings through this daily journal.

Hard to do, but try to let negative emotions be temporary. One way is to categorize your thoughts so that you only focus on the things you can change or control, not on the things you can’t. The Cancer Support Community has created a support service related to coping with cancer and its impact on family, work, relationships, spirituality, etc. They look forward to your call or being there for the ones you love.

Are you feeling anxious about your scans?

Is the anxiety strong enough that you’re avoiding even scheduling them? You aren’t alone. Commonly known as “scanxiety,” this feeling is very real and needs to be addressed right away. Delaying or skipping necessary and important appointments could jeopardize your treatment plan.

Here's a suggestion. Have someone you love schedule the appointment and go with you. Ask this person to also take notes so that you can focus on listening during the appointment. You can then review the information later. Also, share your anxiety with your doctor to determine if medication might help.

Finally, keep in mind that even if your scan brings unwelcome news—namely, that the cancer has advanced or returned—you can always talk with your oncologist about different treatment options.

Are you experiencing financial strain?

Are you having trouble keeping up with your medical bills, or has your illness hurt your personal finances? Sometimes financial challenges can get in the way of making treatment decisions. There are ways to address this.

It's understandable that cost is a heavy consideration when evaluating treatment options. Sometimes cost can even interfere with having access to a particular treatment. Ask your oncology social worker or other healthcare provider for tips, guidance, and referrals to help you avoid this obstacle. You can also learn more about financial help for cancer patients here.

Unsure of what HIPAA regulations involve?

You may need to sign a few HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) release forms. These forms are used to ensure the privacy of your health status or care. In most cases, if you don’t sign these forms, information cannot be shared with physicians outside your network, and your care may not be communicated with the ones you love. If you can, get ahead of this issue now. Learn more about HIPAA (PDF) and how it could affect you and the ones you love.

What else can you do to prepare for obstacles?

It always helps to have a strong support team in place and to be your own best advocate. Keep in mind that obstacles can be anything from dealing with the healthcare system to finding reliable transportation to and from doctor's appointments.

To try to avoid potential obstacles, try to:

  • Stay informed. Learn as much as you can about your treatment options. The more you know about cancer and how it can be treated, the more empowered you may feel about your care and your choices.
  • Be an active participant in your treatment and care. Consider writing down questions that you may have about your treatment, side effects, or anything else related to your care.
  • Ask for help as you fight lung cancer. Asking for help is not about weakness, it’s about assistance and support. There are many people out there who are waiting for you to ask.

Beth's story

"I've always been a very independent person—I pride myself in knowing how to check my car’s oil and things like that. So when I got cancer, I tried to keep going like nothing happened… it was naive, when I look back. Then someone connected me with a free service that would do, basically, anything I needed for a couple hours a week: shopping, housework, even [help] taking a shower. It was just a huge help."

Not sure how to tell your oncologist you want a second opinion?

Getting a second opinion is part of making sure you’re receiving the best information. If you feel uncomfortable asking, use the script below:

Physician Referral Request

"I really respect your opinion, Doctor. But I would feel more comfortable moving ahead if I had a second opinion. Can you recommend someone to me?"


Lung cancer can bring up many emotions. For you and for the ones you love. Learn about ways you can use your emotions to feel more in control.

NEXT: Understanding Your Emotions


Feeling like you’re losing control?

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