Lung Cancer: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in the lung. Lung cancer can start anywhere in the lungs and spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment for lung cancer depends on what type of lung cancer you have and how advanced it is. Treatment may include surgery to remove the cancer. It could also include medicines (chemotherapy) or radiation to destroy cancer cells.

Being treated for cancer can weaken your body, and you may feel very tired. Home treatment and certain medicines can help you feel better.

Finding out that you have cancer is scary. You may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions to relieve pain. Use pain medicine when you first feel pain, before it becomes severe. Taking pain medicines regularly is often the best way to keep pain under control.
  • Eat healthy food. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat food that has protein and extra calories to keep up your strength and prevent weight loss. Drink liquid meal replacements for extra calories and protein. Try to eat your main meal early. Eating smaller portions more often may help as well.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired. Keep doing the hobbies you enjoy as your energy allows.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make your cancer symptoms worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • If you use oxygen, do not smoke, light a cigarette, or use a flame while your oxygen is on. Smoking while using oxygen can lead to fire and even explosion.
  • If you have nausea, try to eat several small meals a day. When you feel better, eat clear soups and mild foods until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids (enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water) to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • Take steps to control your stress and workload. Learn relaxation techniques.
    • Share your feelings. Stress and tension affect our emotions. By expressing your feelings to others, you may be able to understand and cope with them.
    • Consider joining a support group. Talking about a problem with your spouse, a good friend, or other people with similar problems is a good way to reduce tension and stress.
    • Express yourself with art. Try writing, crafts, dance, or art to relieve stress. Some dance, writing, or art groups may be available just for people who have cancer.
    • Be kind to your body and mind. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and taking time to do things you enjoy can contribute to an overall feeling of balance in your life and help reduce stress.
    • Get help if you need it. Discuss your concerns with your doctor or counsellor.
  • If you have not already done so, prepare an advance care plan. An advance care plan provides instructions to your doctor and family members about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak or express yourself.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden or severe chest pain.
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You cough up a lot of blood.
  • You vomit and feel like you may faint when you sit up or stand.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are short of breath.
  • You have new chest pain.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your neck and face swell.
  • You have unexpected or severe nausea or vomiting.
  • Your pain is not controlled by medicine.
  • Your symptoms get worse or are not getting better.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You develop a new cough, or your cough does not go away.
  • You cough up yellow or green mucus for longer than 2 days.
  • You are constipated or have diarrhea.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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