Newly Diagnosed with Lung Cancer? What You Should Know

If you have received a lung cancer diagnosis, there are many questions that come up including:

  • Who will treat it?

  • What type of lung cancer treatments will I need?

  • Do I need surgery to remove the cancer?

  • How long will my treatments last?

We hope to help you through the initial period of time between your diagnosis and your first oncology visit with the information provided here.

How to Choose Your Lung Cancer Care Team

The right people for your cancer treatment

To help make treatment decisions about your lung cancer, it’s helpful to first consult with a medical oncologist. This is a cancer specialist who is typically the primary caregiver during your treatment process and oversees treatments such as chemotherapy and targeted therapy for lung cancer. As the team leader, the medical oncologist works closely with the radiation oncology team if radiotherapy will be a part of your treatment plan.

Together they will create a plan that includes the treatments that are most likely to work for you based on the type of lung cancer and stage. They will determine when and/or if radiation therapy and surgery are necessary. Your oncologists will discuss your needs with the surgeon as well.

You are encouraged to choose your entire cancer care team including: medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and surgeon. While you are likely to receive a recommendation from your medical oncologist, make sure the other caregivers are a good fit for you.

The right location for radiation therapy

Most medical oncology appointments are spread out to once a week or less often. However, radiation therapy is different. Most patients with external radiation therapy receive it five days a week for several weeks. Because of that it’s important to have a convenient location for radiotherapy. We have several different radiation oncologists that you can work with located in the Snellville, Conyers, Decatur, Covington, Blairsville, and Lawrenceville areas.

Do Treatments Change Based on Type and Stage of Lung Cancer?

The simple answer is yes. Treatment for each patient is based on the type and stage of lung cancer as well as your overall health condition.

Type of lung cancer

Treatments for lung cancer vary based on which type has been diagnosed. There are two primary types of lung cancer: Non-small cell lung cancer (the most common type) and small cell lung cancer.

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Stages of lung cancer

Staging lung cancer varies by type. As with most types of cancer, earlier stages are easier to treat. With non-small lung cancer some treatments are only available at a later stage, after other treatments have been used.

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Lung cancer treatments based on type and stage

Be sure you talk with your oncologist and ask questions. Be sure you understand your lung cancer treatment plan, the timing of it, and how they will know if it’s working.

Because treatments are based on type, stage, and in some cases biomarkers that indicate genetic mutations, there is a different plan for each person that may include medical oncology, radiation therapy and/or surgery.

Read our lung cancer treatment page for a more comprehensive explanation.

Getting Ready For Your First Radiation Oncology Appointment

You may feel a little nervous about meeting with your radiation oncologist for the first time, but knowing what to expect and what you’ll discuss can help prepare you for your appointment.

During your visit, the radiation oncologist will take time to review your records and examine you. You’ll also discuss possible treatment options, along with the risks and benefits of radiation therapy.

Because there will be a lot of information at this initial appointment, here are some suggestions to ensure you don’t miss anything important:

  • Bring a relative or friend. In addition to offering support, a loved one can help you with taking notes, listening, and asking questions that you might have forgotten.

  • Wear comfortable clothing. Your radiation oncologist may wish to start the treatment planning process, which can include imaging and/or lying down while they place you carefully in the spot where they plan to administer treatments. You’re not going to receive radiation during your initial appointment but you’ll want to be comfortable while lying down, if necessary.

  • Take notes. Use a notebook (or smartphone) to keep track of appointment details, write down the answers to your questions and record any other information so you can remember it for later.

  • Write down your questions. It can be very helpful to jot down your questions ahead of time so they’re ready to be discussed at your appointment. Some questions to consider before you arrive can include:

    • What are my treatment options?

    • How soon do I start my radiation therapy?

    • What are the benefits, risks and side effects of radiation therapy?

    • How will radiation therapy affect my daily life?

    • What is best to eat and drink while going through lung cancer treatment?

    • If you smoke, what programs or medications are there to help you quit?

Should You Get a Second Opinion about a Lung Cancer Diagnosis?

It’s really important that you feel confident in the diagnosis and the doctor who will be leading your cancer treatment. Many patients choose to get a second opinion before beginning any lung cancer treatment plan, and that is perfectly normal. At Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia in the Atlanta area, we encourage patients to take advantage of that option if possible. If your oncologist’s treatment plan includes radiation therapy, you can get a second opinion at one of our radiation oncology clinics. While most insurance plans cover second opinions, it is important to check your coverage before you see another oncologist.

Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer Conveniently Located in the Atlanta Area

Your healing process has a lot to do with finding a compassionate care team that can help you along your lung cancer journey. We hope you will take the time to evaluate each of the physicians who will be a part of your care team, and request second opinions to be sure you’re confident in your selections.