Lung Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment, and Support

Lung Cancer Diagnosis Treatment and Resources
This page was originally published March 3, 2022 and updated May 5, 2024.

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 diagnosed, financial assistance programs are available to help all at zero cost. For financial assistance for lung cancer patients in the USA, please visit our national directory. ❤️

How Is Lung Cancer Diagnosed?

As the National Cancer Institutes describes, 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 tests, including a chest x-ray 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. A CT scan is sometimes used along with chest x-rays to help diagnose lung cancer. An MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) 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. Sputum cytology involves looking at a sample of sputum (phlegm) under a microscope to see if there are any abnormal cells present. A bronchoscopy may also be performed. 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.  

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 and your goals. 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 CDC describes three main types of treatment for lung cancer including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. You may receive just one type of treatment or combinations of these treatments. Surgery is usually the preferred treatment option for lung cancers. During surgery, your surgeon will remove part or all of your affected lung (lobectomy or pneumonectomy). In some cases, nonsurgical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended instead of, or in addition to, surgery. 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 may also be used before surgery, after surgery, or both before and after surgery depending on your lung cancer stage.  It 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).    

Lung Cancer Support For Patients and Families

A diagnosis of lung cancer is life changing. It can be difficult to know where to turn for help, but there are many resources available to patients and families. Your oncologist is a great resource to provide you with information about your specific diagnosis and treatment options, as well as referrals to specialists as needed. But there is more to a lung cancer diagnosis than treatment. You need financial and emotional support during this critical time. Dealing with a lung cancer diagnosis is difficult, but you don’t have to go through it alone. There are many organizations and support groups that can offer you the help you deserve. Lungevity and the Cancer Hope Newtwork are just two national nonprofit organizations that provide no-cost financial, emotional, and treatment support for lung cancer patients and families throughout the USA. Many more lung cancer programs, products, and services are in our national directory so please be sure to check them out for additional help. ❤️

Lungevity Financial Support Services

No-cost professional support services by a trained oncology social worker to help you manage your financial challenges that accompany a lung cancer diagnosis. Services can include help with 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.

❤️ Our national directory includes other financial support programs just for lung cancer patients.

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:

❤️ More specialized peer support programs are included here in our national directory.

Get More Help

When it comes to diagnosing and treating lung cancer, there are many different options available. Each person has individual needs and overall treatment goals. If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, it’s important that you work closely with your oncologist to develop a treatment plan that’s right for you. Don’t hesitate to ask your care team any questions you may have—they are there to help you through this process. In addition, be sure to reach out to national organizations like Lungevity and Cancer Hope Network to get the financial and emotional support you and your family deserve. Please contact the programs above and be sure to visit our Free Programs for Lung Cancer Patients for more national nonprofits that can help you today at zero cost to you. ❤️

More help for Lung Cancer Patients and Families

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  1. I never would have found this grant on my own. Just diagnosed and can’t work.

  2. 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.

  3. 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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