Lung Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment, and Support

Lung Cancer Diagnosis Treatment and Resources
This page was originally published March 3, 2022 and updated September 20, 2022.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer (after skin cancer) in both men and women. It is estimated that there will be about 236,740 new cases of lung cancer in the United States in 2022. In this blog post, we will discuss how lung cancer is diagnosed as well as the different types of treatment and support options that are available. If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed, please know there are many programs available to help all at zero cost. Read on for more.

How Is Lung Cancer Diagnosed?

There are several ways that doctors can diagnose lung cancer. The first step is usually to take a medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may also order some tests, including:

X-rays

A chest x-ray is often used to look for abnormalities in the lungs that could indicate lung cancer. However, chest x-rays are not always accurate and other tests may need to be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Computed tomography (CT) scan

A CT scan uses special x-ray equipment to make detailed pictures of structures inside your body. CT scans are sometimes used along with chest x-rays to help diagnose lung cancer.

Sputum cytology

This test involves looking at a sample of sputum (phlegm) under a microscope to see if there are any abnormal cells present.

Bronchoscopy

During this procedure, a long, thin tube called a bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the airways to look for abnormal areas. If an abnormal area is found, a biopsy (removal of tissue for examination under a microscope) can be performed.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

An MRI uses powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed pictures of structures inside your body. This test is sometimes used along with CT scans to look for lung cancer. 

Types of Treatment

Once lung cancer has been diagnosed, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is best for you. The type(s) of treatment that you receive will depend on several factors, such as:

  • The type and stage of your cancer
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • Your personal preferences

The three main types of treatment for lung cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. You may receive just one type of treatment or combinations of these treatments.

Surgery

 Surgery is usually the preferred treatment option for early-stage non-small cell lung cancers. During surgery, your surgeon will remove part or all of your affected lung (lobectomy or pneumonectomy). More often than not, patients who have surgery experience better long-term outcomes than those who do not have surgery. In some cases, nonsurgical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended instead of surgery because the patient’s overall health may not be good enough to withstand surgery. 

Chemotherapy

 Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be given intravenously (IV) or taken orally as pills. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy. When chemotherapy is given before surgery, it’s called neoadjuvant chemotherapy. When chemotherapy is given after surgery, it’s called adjuvant chemotherapy. Adjuvant chemotherapy has been shown improve survival rates in patients with non-small cell lung cancers by destroying any remaining cancer cells after surgery has been performed. 

Radiation Therapy  

Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation beams to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be administered externally by aiming the radiation beams from outside your body at your tumor (external beam radiation therapy) or internally by placing radioactive material directly into your tumor (brachytherapy). Radiation therapy may also be used before surgery, after surgery, or both before and after surgery depending on your lung cancer stage.   

Lung Cancer Support For Patients and Families

Peer Support

LCRF Peer Support Program

This free peer to peer support program, in collaboration with Cancer Hope Network, matches lung cancer patients and caregivers with trained volunteer cancer survivors/caregivers who understand and can offer support because they have been through very similar experiences. To get started, complete the form on the right side of this page to be matched up and get the support you need: https://www.cancerhopenetwork.org/.

Professional Support

Lungevity Professional Support Services

No-cost professional support services by a trained oncology social worker to help you manage your emotional, financial, and support challenges that accompany a lung cancer diagnosis. Services can include help with pain management, childcare, obtaining medical supplies, arranging transportation to/from treatment, and out-of-pocket copayment assistance and more. Help is available Monday through Thursday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern time) by calling toll-free (844) 360-5864.

Grants

LungCancer.org Financial Grant Program

Free financial grant program for US residents currently undergoing treatment for lung cancer. Funding can be provided for transportation assistance, home-based care costs, and child care costs. Income limits apply and is based on federal poverty guidelines that change annually. To apply for this cash grant program, call (800) 813‑4673 (10AM-6PM ET M-Th) to speak with a social worker who can prequalify you over the phone and send you out the enrollment form.

Get More Help

When it comes to diagnosing and treating lung cancer, there are many different options available depending on each individual case. It’s important that you work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that’s right for you and that you get the support you and your family deserve. Please reach out to the programs above and visit our Free Programs for Lung Cancer Patients for More.

More help for Lung Cancer Patients and Families

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Cancer Care News is a non-profit 501(c)(3) sharing evidence-based cancer updates & the latest free nationwide resources for patients & families. Please share the information you find helpful with others in need.

8 Comments

  1. My uncle needs help can you tell me who can help him pay for his medicine? It’s so expensive we don’t know what to do!

    • Sandy, thank you so much for reaching out on behalf of your uncle. Please call the Lungevity Professional Support Services anytime Monday through Thursday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern time) toll-free at (844) 360-5864. This program can help your uncle get the care and guidance he needs step-by-step and all for free including access to his medications. All our very best to you and your family.

  2. Your website is AMAZING! Thank you for all you do to help patients. I am a care navigator and found you through a patient. Well done!

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