Lung Cancer Diagnosis? Ask These 25 Questions About Treatment Options

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New treatments, biomarker testing, and clinical trials offer hope for people living with lung cancer. Read on for 25 questions to discuss with your healthcare provider as you consider your options and what’s important to you.

I ask a lot of questions because I feel I need to learn about what’s going on inside me. – Tammy, diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer

If you are newly diagnosed with lung cancer, you probably have dozens of questions going through your mind right now. One of the biggest might be: “Can my lung cancer be treated?” Or “What is the best treatment for the type of lung cancer I have?”

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed as you review treatment options with your healthcare team. There are more ways to treat lung cancer now than ever before. Standard treatment often uses a combination of approaches, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Thanks to ongoing research, there are also promising new treatments available. New drug therapies, including immunotherapies and targeted therapies, are approved regularly.

One way to take control is by asking questions. The more you know about your lung cancer diagnosis, the easier it will be to talk with your healthcare team to determine the best treatment plan for you.

Not sure what to ask your healthcare provider? Here are some helpful suggestions: 

1. What type of lung cancer do I have? 

Tip: The type of lung cancer will determine the types of treatment you will receive. There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). There are 3 major types of NSCLC: adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.

2. What is the stage of my lung cancer? 

Tip: The stage of your cancer will also help determine the types of treatment you will receive. Non-small cell lung cancer can be anywhere from stage 0 (very early stage) to stage 4 (cancer has spread beyond one lung and to another part of the body). Small cell lung cancer is staged differently. Doctors classify it as limited-stage or extensive-stage disease.

3. If my cancer has metastasized (spread), where are the metastases located?

Tip: Cancer occurs when cells in your body start growing and dividing faster than they are supposed to. At first, these cells may form into small clumps or tumors. But they can also spread (or metastasize) to other parts of the body. You still have the same type of cancer you started with. For example, if your lung cancer spreads to the bone, you still only have lung cancer. You do not have bone cancer.

4. Has a sample of my tumor been sent for comprehensive biomarker testing?

Tip: Some cancer drugs are only effective for certain cancer subtypes. Biomarker testing (also called tumor testing) provides specific information about the type of lung cancer you have. So, biomarker testing may help determine the best treatment for you. It may also help determine if you are eligible to join certain clinical trials.

Take our 2-minute survey to find out what biomarker test you should get for your type of lung cancer and what the results mean for your treatment.

This 2-minute video helps explain what you need to know about biomarker testing and how it can impact cancer treatment.

5. How do my age and current health affect my treatment options?

6. What is the goal of my treatment? A cure? To stop or slow the cancer’s growth?

Tip: Be sure to share your own expectations for treatment and the quality of life you hope to have during and after treatment.

7. Which treatments do you recommend, and why?

8. What are the benefits of these treatments?

9. What are the risks of the recommended treatments?

10. What side effects might I expect?

Tip: In your discussion, ask how you can prepare for any expected side effects. By preparing for common side effects before starting treatment, you can improve your quality of life and stay on course throughout your treatment schedule.

Discover Ways to Manage Common Treatment Side Effects

11. How will treatment affect my quality of life?

Tip: Discuss what your treatment will involve in terms of time and travel. Will you need to visit a clinic to receive treatments? Will there be restricted activity or the need for hospitalization?

12. How likely is it that this treatment will work for me?

13. Are there other treatments besides the ones you recommended?

14. Will I be given any combination treatments?

15. How and when will you determine if the treatment is working?

16. How much will this treatment cost me?

Tip: In your discussion, you can also ask if there is a treatment that is just as effective but that costs less. You also may want to ask your healthcare provider if there is a financial counselor with whom you can meet.

17. Is surgery an option?

Tip: In your discussion, ask if the tumor can be removed through surgery.

18. Will I have chemotherapy before or after surgery?

19. What is the name of the chemotherapy I might receive?

20. Will I have radiation before or after surgery?

21. What kind of radiation?

22. Will I have immunotherapy? What kind?

Tip: Immunotherapies are a type of cancer treatment that use the body’s natural defenses to identify, attack, and kill cancer cells. Some may be given in combination with other therapies or with a different immunotherapy.

Read More: Is Immunotherapy Right for You?

23. Am I a candidate for targeted therapy? What kind?

Tip: Targeted therapy drugs are a newer kind of cancer treatment. They “target” specific cancer subtypes. They are better able to attack cancer cells and leave healthy cells alone. Targeted therapies may be given alone or in combination with other treatments.

Watch this 2-minute video to learn how targeted therapy drugs work and if it targeted therapy might be an option for you.

24. Am I eligible for any clinical trials? 

Tip: Cancer clinical trials are studies to test new cancer treatments or learn how to use current treatments better. They may be the only way to try a promising new treatment. Some clinical trials are looking at new ways to treat lung cancer, including new kinds of immunotherapy like vaccines and cell therapies.

Get Simple Answers to Common Questions About Clinical Trials

25. Are there other resources that can help me during this time?

Tip: Your healthcare provider can recommend resources specific to your needs and treatment plan. This may include certain people on your healthcare team who can provide extra support, such as an oncology social worker.

In addition to these 25 questions, you may have questions of your own. Create a list of all the questions you want to ask your healthcare provider and take it with you to your appointment. Consider bringing a trusted friend or loved one with you to take notes and help ask questions.

If you need extra support at any point in your cancer experience, you can also reach out to our Cancer Support Helpline. Our Helpline offers free, personalized navigation by phone and online for people impacted by cancer. This includes navigation for financial issues related to cancer, from managing treatment costs to communicating with healthcare providers about the cost of care and payment. Call 888-793-9355 to be connected with one of our navigators.


7 Recipes to Ease Common Cancer Side Effects


This creamy, flavorful millet bake is perfect for patients who need to add calories to their diet. Find more information in our list below. Visit our Virtual Kitchen for more recipes, all created to support the nutritional needs of people impacted by cancer.

Are you experiencing nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, taste changes, dry mouth, or weight loss? We share healthy recipes that can help you cope.

Different treatments and different kinds of cancer are going to affect your ability to eat in many different ways. It is important to try to stay nourished as much as possible.

CSC podcast, “Encore: Eating Well and Staying Active”

Cancer treatment can change the way your body processes food. It can also affect how you feel, and even the way food tastes. In addition to taste changes, side effects like fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and loss of appetite are common during treatment. – Alice Bender, Registered Dietitian, American Institute for Cancer Research

Eating healthy can help you curb these side effects and cope with related eating challenges. A nutritious diet has other benefits too. These include:

Eating healthy can help you curb these side effects and cope with related eating challenges. A nutritious diet has other benefits too. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Lowering the risk of infection
  • Improving overall sense of well-being

Here are 7 common side effects during cancer treatment and healthy recipes that can help.

1. Nausea

If you are feeling sick to your stomach, you probably don’t have much of an appetite. Did you know that an empty stomach can make nausea worse? So, eating a small amount of food every few hours can help minimize it.

For a soothing antidote to nausea, try our Ginger Turkey and Wild Rice Soup recipe. One of the key ingredients is ginger root, which has been shown to help soothe nausea. Broth-based soups like this one can also provide essential fluids and electrolytes.

Find Tips to Cope With Nausea and Vomiting

2. Fatigue

Feeling tired, weary, exhausted, or worn out? Fatigue is a common problem for people coping with cancer. It may be a side effect of your treatment or the cancer itself.

Making sure your body is hydrated and nourished can help you feel more energized. Start your day off with our Almond Banana Wheatberry Cereal to refuel your body with nutrients. Wheatberries are an ancient grain, high in fiber and protein, and have a nutty, chewy texture.

Need extra time to rest throughout the week? Make a full pot of Almond Banana Wheatberry Cereal for the week ahead and keep in your refrigerator. Then you can enjoy a nourishing bowl whenever you need to quickly replenish your body – morning, day, or night.

3. Diarrhea

Diarrhea can result from some chemotherapy drugs, certain surgical procedures, and radiation treatment to the pelvic area. The apples and oats in our Apple Cinnamon Muffin recipe provide soluble fiber, which can help minimize diarrhea. The best part? These muffins are made with pure maple syrup, giving them a touch of natural sweetness. You can also substitute peaches or berries for the apples in this recipe.

If you are experiencing more than 3 episodes of diarrhea in one day, contact your healthcare team. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration or changes in the levels of potassium and sodium in your body. Changes in these levels can be dangerous if not corrected.

4. Constipation

Lentils are a good source of iron, zinc, and B vitamins, among other important minerals. The legume can also help with constipation. Our Colorful Lentil Soup is bursting with color and flavor.

Another common side effect of treatment is constipation. This could happen for different reasons. Eating a low-fiber diet, not drinking enough fluid, and not being active are common culprits. Surgery, pain medications, and some chemotherapy drugs can also cause changes in normal bowel function.

Finding ways to incorporate gentle physical activity into your day can help. In addition, fiber-rich meals like our Colorful Lentil Soup can promote regular bowel movements. Easy to make in one pot, this recipe combines veggies like celery, carrots, tomatoes, and zucchini into a hearty, nourishing soup.

Discover Tips to Cope With Diarrhea and Constipation

5. Change in taste

Watch this 2-minute video to see how our mouthwatering Polenta With Fruit Compote is made. Using just a few simple ingredients, it’s a quick and easy recipe to help with changes in taste.

Have you noticed that foods don’t taste the same to you now? Some foods may taste like metal or chalk. Or you may find that foods have no taste at all. It’s common for cancer treatment to affect both taste and smell. In turn, this can impact your desire to eat. The good news is that changes in taste are usually temporary and go away after treatment ends.

In the meantime, our Polenta With Fruit Compote may help with the taste changes you’re experiencing. The recipe brings together maple syrup and tart berries for a fruity, flavorful treat. It’s an ideal meal or snack to cope with taste changes, aversions to sour taste, or difficulty swallowing. This compote is also packed with antioxidants and fiber.

6. Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a common side effect of cancer treatment, namely chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These treatments can reduce the saliva in your mouth. If you are experiencing a dry mouth, you may notice that it’s harder to chew and swallow your food.

Find relief from dry mouth with our cool and soothing Cranberry Coconut Popsicle. This refreshing, 3-ingredient recipe is ideal for anyone experiencing dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, or mouth sores from radiation treatment. Unlike most popsicles, this frozen treat is nutritious too. It has fiber, healthy fat, and protein.

Need Nutrition Help?

Savor Health is a digital health company that provides precision nutrition interventions to manage cancer and other complex conditions. Their Intelligent Nutrition Assistant, Ina®, provides free, 24/7, unlimited, HIPAA-compliant, and secure nutrition services, all from your phone.

7. Weight Loss

Have you noticed that it is hard to gain or keep on weight? It may be a side effect of your cancer treatment or a loss of appetite, if you haven’t felt like eating.

Significant weight loss and muscle loss are associated with a condition called cancer cachexia. If you are experiencing significant weight loss, speak with your healthcare team.

If you are coping with minor weight loss, eating healthy, high-calorie foods may help you gain some weight. Our Cheesy Chicken Millet Bake is high in calories, protein, and fiber. The leeks and cheese give this recipe a rich flavor and creamy texture. If you love traditional chicken and rice casseroles, this recipe is one to try.

Get Tips to Cope With Weight Loss and Weight Gain

Always let your healthcare team know when you are experiencing any eating problems or side effects. They can help determine the most effective way to address them. Speaking with a registered dietitian can also be helpful. A dietitian can share recommendations to help you meet your nutritional requirements and keep your immune system strong. These strategies, combined with healthy eating, can boost your wellness during treatment and beyond.

How Can Cancer-Related Side Effects Impact Mental Wellness

by Kimberly Papay Rogers, PhD

A woman wearing a colorful head scarf embraces her sister along the bank of a sunlit river

Editor’s Note: This is part of our Spotlight on Mental Health series examining critical mental health concerns that affect cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and providers. 

A cancer diagnosis brings about much more than physical concerns. For many people, the symptoms and side effects of their cancer and its treatment can affect their mental health and well-being.

“When a person is experiencing physical side effects from cancer and its treatment, their outlook can be negatively affected by these symptoms,” notes Brittany, MSW, LCSW, a navigator for our Cancer Support Helpline.

This is especially true for people with metastatic disease, whose symptoms and side effects can be more severe. For example, one physical symptom that metastatic breast cancer patients commonly report is intense pain. Opioids are often prescribed to help manage the pain, but they can lead to another physical problem: increased nausea, a common side effect of opioid-based pain medication.

Our research team set out to understand more about the link between physical side effects and mental health among people with cancer.

Here’s what we learned:  

We examined how symptoms and side effects impact people with metastatic breast cancer. Our research showed that pain and nausea were not just physical concerns for patients; they also influenced their mental health. The more pain a patient experienced, the more likely they were to experience depression and anxiety. The same thing was true for nausea. The more nausea a patient experienced, the more likely they were to experience depression and anxiety.

Read our full research article in the Journal of Patient Experience.

There are likely different ways that pain and nausea can lead to depression and anxiety. Our research team uncovered one surprising explanation: It may have to do with how much pain and nausea interfere with someone’s social life.

“If the physical side effects impact the ability to do things such as attend to daily tasks and responsibilities, socializing, or even participating in activities previously enjoyed, which are important to our overall mental health, it can be very distressing,” Brittany explains. “Over time, this can lead to experiencing anxiety or depression symptoms.”

In our research we found that, among metastatic breast cancer patients, pain and nausea were linked with having more trouble doing work and leisure activities, including activities with family and friends. The more trouble patients faced in these areas, the more likely they were to also experience depression and anxiety.

The reverse was also true: Patients who were more engaged socially showed less severe depression and anxiety and better overall psychological health.

So, what does this mean?

Can people living with cancer improve their mental health by engaging in an active social life, even when dealing with pain and nausea? Possibly, but more research is needed before we can know for sure.

What we do know for certain is, with the right support, people can find healthy ways to cope with the symptoms and side effects of cancer. It’s important to note that people don’t have to navigate their cancer diagnosis and health concerns alone.

Did You Know?

Our Cancer Support Helpline provides free navigation for cancer patients or their loved ones by phone at 888-793-9355 or online via our chat service.

Connecting With Others Can Help You Cope: Here’s Why

For people who are experiencing side effects from cancer and its treatment, it can be beneficial to meet others who are going through similar experiences. Support groups facilitated by trained professionals offer a safe environment to socially engage and share your experiences with others.

“We’ve all felt the physical manifestations of stress and anxiety through headaches, stomach pains, and more,” says CSC’s Vice President of Partner Relations, Kelly Hendershot, LGSW, LMSW. “Similarly, when the body is in pain, the mind feels it. It’s important to have a safe space, like a support group, to process how physical pain is impacting you in all areas of life.”

Gilda’s Club and CSC have 175 locations worldwide that offer free professionally led programs for people impacted by cancer, including support groups. In these groups, pain management and the emotional aspects of being in pain are common topics, says Kelly.

“Rather than focusing on the loss of control you have when it comes to pain, the conversation often shifts to what you do have control over — prioritization,” she notes. “You may not be able to do everything you once enjoyed, but you can prioritize how you want to spend your time when the pain is manageable.”

And when you attend a CSC support group, there’s no need to hide any pain you may be feeling.

“Our groups follow a come-as-you-are mentality, which includes sharing how your pain truly makes you feel,” says Kelly. “When you are vulnerable about how the pain impacts your emotions, there begins to be a shift in mentality. You begin to gain back some control by putting a name to those feelings.”

Find a Caring and Supportive Location Near You

Support groups are just one way to connect with others when you’re coping with cancer and its side effects. CSC locations also offer programs like educational workshops and yoga classes.

“For those who are more doers than talkers, healthy lifestyle activities such as yoga and meditation can help bring calm to your mind in times of pain,” Kelly notes. “In either setting, you’re surrounded by others trying to manage the pain that comes with a cancer diagnosis or its treatment. And that community of shared experience can be powerfully uplifting.”

Do you experience nausea or vomiting? Watch this video for tips to manage these side effects.
Connect With Others Online

If you are living with cancer or navigating survivorship, but you don’t live near one of our physical Gilda’s Club or CSC locations, we have you covered. Connect with others like you through our digital support community, MyLifeLine.

When you join MyLifeLine, you can create a private site to document your journey and receive support from friends and family along the way. There are also discussion forums on a variety of cancer-related topics like Coping With Side Effects, Living With Breast Cancer, Nutrition & Wellness, and more. Members can join as many forums as they wish to connect with others like them.

Build Your Online Community Now


To conclude, there are many ways to connect with others when coping with cancer and its side effects. Online discussion forums, support groups, counseling, and peer mentorship are just some examples. Through these types of connections, there’s the opportunity to learn about new coping tips and strategies that have worked for others.

“By connecting with others who have been through something similar,” says our Helpline navigator Brittany, “you are getting first-hand experience of how they have lived and managed the physical side effects of cancer and treatment. This can help a person feel less alone and feel more heard in their cancer experience.”