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St. Petersburg General Hospital

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Lung Cancer

Lifestyle changes can help:

  • Strengthen your body so that you can withstand some of the rigors of treatment.
  • Optimize the function of your immune system to aid in the fight against cancer.
  • Improve your emotional outlook, so you can enjoy life to the fullest, even during treatment for lung cancer.
  • Avoid other medical problems that could complicate your health.

General Guidelines

  • Quit smoking
  • Supportive therapies
  • Reduce your risk of infection
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage fatigue
  • Seek support
  • Comfort measures

Quit Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of complications from medical procedures and slows tissue healing. It can also cause further irritation to the lungs that are exposed to chemotherapy or radiation.

When you quit smoking, the body immediately begins to repair itself. Quitting will help boost your immune system to help fight the cancer and improve recovery from treatment. It will also reduce your risk of future cancers.

Supportive Therapy

Lung cancer can affect breathing, mobility, speech and swallowing. There are supportive therapies that can help. Examples include:

  • Oxygen therapy—Oxygen is supplied in a tank. Many are portable so they can go with you. More oxygen in the bloodstream will increase your energy level and improve quality of life.
  • Assisted devices can help you get around more easily. Consider using a cane or a walker if you need to.
  • Speech therapy—If tumors affect the esophagus or vocal cords, it may be difficult to swallow or speak. A speech therapist can help with techniques that make it easier.

Supportive therapy can be used for many complications you may encounter during treatment. Keep in touch with your healthcare team when symptoms appear so they can be dealt with promptly.

Reduce Your Risk of Infection

Cancer and its treatments suppress the body's immune system. This can increase the risk of infection, or increase the severity of common infections, like a cold or the flu. To decrease the risk of infection while going through cancer treatment:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and often. Hand washing is the most effective method of decreasing the chance of catching colds and flu. Carry hand sanitizer for times when washing is not convenient.
  • Try to avoid crowds, especially during cold and flu season.
  • Avoid touching eyes, mouth, and nose to after coming in contact with surfaces or objects.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects often.
  • Ask your doctor about immunization against the flu and pneumonia.

Exercise Regularly

If you have not been exercising regularly, check with your doctor to choose safe exercises. Even light exercise has many benefits that may help you withstand the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and cancer treatment including:

  • Promoting overall fitness
  • Boosting your energy level
  • Improving your immune system
  • Boosting your spirits and improving your emotional outlook

Do not start an exercise program until you have been cleared by your doctor.

Seek Support

The diagnosis of cancer is a life-defining event that can be difficult to handle. Facing the uncertainty of a serious disease, feeling anxious about how you will feel during treatment, lifestyle changes, and worrying about the impact of both the diagnosis and treatment can be overwhelming. It is important to rely on family, friends, and other people in your life. People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer can often maintain better emotional balance. Other sources of support include:

  • Religious community
  • Support groups for people with your type of cancer
  • Professional support from social workers, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists who are trained to help support cancer patients and their families

Family and caregivers may also need support. Encourage them to seek support groups or counseling geared toward them.

Comfort Measures

Lung cancer is especially difficult because it is usually found in advanced stages, making it harder to treat. Some people choose treatments to ease cancer complications or choose to stop treatment completely. Depending on your circumstances, it may be realistic to begin end-of-life planning. Considerations may include:

  • Choosing home or hospice care
  • Financial decisions
  • Advance directives—includes legal issues, like wills, hospital orders for your care, and power of attorney for medical care and finances
  • Insurance coverage

If you need guidance, talk to a member of your healthcare team. You can be referred to a trained professional to guide you through the process.

Revision Information

  • Explore oxygen therapy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Updated February 24, 2012. Accessed July 28, 2016.

  • Living with lung cancer. American Lung Association website. Available at: Accessed July 28, 2016.

  • Nearing the end of life. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed July 28, 2016.

  • Non-small cell lung cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated January 25, 2016. Accessed July 28, 2016.

  • Small cell lung cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated October 15, 2015. Accessed July 28, 2016.