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A diagnosis of lung cancer can be overwhelming. The time ahead will be very important to you. This fact sheet gives advice on how to: • Understand your diagnosis and treatment plan • Communicate with your health care team • Build a network of resources and support • Care for yourself emotionally

What Is Lung Cancer and How Is It Treated?

Lung cancer occurs when the cells in the lung begin to change and grow uncontrollably, forming a tumor (also called a lesion or a nodule), which can be either cancerous or benign. The main types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer are categorized based on the type of cell that the cancer originated in, and include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma. The type of lung cancer that you have is an important factor in determining which treatments may work best for you.

There are a wide range of treatments for lung cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation are the main treatment options for people with small cell lung cancer. Surgery is rarely used for patients with small cell lung cancer and is only considered for patients with very early-stage disease. Treatment options for non-small cell lung cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapies and immunotherapy. If treatment is necessary, ask your health care team to recommend reliable publications and websites to learn more. Knowing what to expect can help you feel more in control.

How Can I Stay Informed About My Cancer?

  • Communicate with your health care team. Your doctors and nurses are the central part of your team. It also can include pharmacists, oncology social workers, counselors and more. They all help you make decisions about your care.

  • Keep your health care appointments. Prepare your questions before your appointments and write down or record the answers to help you remember them. Think about bringing a friend or loved one for support.

  • Contact health care organizations. CancerCare’s A Helping Hand is a listing of state and national organizations with advice and resources. This can be ordered in print or found online at

  • Be aware of health care disparities. Anal cancer is sometimes discovered later for certain groups, such as Black patients and the uninsured. This may affect the stage of cancer and resources needed for treatment.

What Are Some Resources That Can Help?

You do not need to cope with cancer on your own. There are local and national support services available to assist you.

Financial Assistance. Many organizations provide help with medical billing, insurance coverage and reimbursement issues. There are also financial assistance organizations for people who cannot afford the cost of their medications. Good places to start are the websites of the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition ( and the Medicine Assistance Tool (

Benefits and Entitlements. Local and national government agencies can give you information on Social Security, Medicaid, disability issues, SNAP benefits and more. Check your local phone directory for listings or visit

Housing/Lodging. Lodging for families who need to travel for treatment may be found at The Hope Lodge of the American Cancer Society ( and the National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses ( Joe’s House offers an online database with lodging information across the U.S. (

How Do I Help Myself Emotionally?

Cancer may not just affect yourself, but everyone around you. It is important to take care of your feelings. You may find emotional support from friends, family and loved ones. There are also many organizations, such as CancerCare, that provide support services to help people affected by cancer.

CancerCare provides one-on-one counseling and support groups to connect you with others in a safe and supportive environment. We can also help find other resources to help you in many ways.

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This fact sheet has been supported by a grant from Genentech, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and by an independent educational grant from Merck & Co. Inc.

Last updated Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The information presented in this publication is provided for your general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified health professionals who are aware of your specific situation. We encourage you to take information and questions back to your individual health care provider as a way of creating a dialogue and partnership about your cancer and your treatment.

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