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Cancer of the Lung Discharge Information

What is cancer of the lung?

Cancer of the lung (lung cancer) is an abnormal growth of cells that form tumors in the lung. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it is still lung cancer, and is called metastatic lung cancer.

There are different types and stages of lung cancer based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the tumor started and where it has spread. Knowing the type and stage of lung cancer you have helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat lung cancer as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the tumor cells, prevent a localized cancer from spreading, and prevent metastatic cancer from spreading more than it already has.

Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the U.S. Smoking tobacco is linked to most cases of lung cancer. In addition to smoking, factors that increase your risk for lung cancer include exposure to:

  • Other people’s smoke (secondhand smoke)
  • Air pollution
  • Radiation at your job or in your environment
  • Exposure to asbestos, radon gas or industrial chemicals, such as the byproducts from petroleum refining

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

Your chance of cure depends on how far the cancer has spread. How long it takes to get better depends on your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. You may need to make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible.

Management

  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you are to take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Treat or prevent anemia, which means you have too few red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to your body. Anemia may be caused by your cancer, your treatment, or other problems.
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Help your immune system fight cancer
  • If you have had surgery, to care for your surgical wound:
    • Keep your surgery wound clean.
    • If you are told to change the dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before and after changing the dressing on your incision and after disposing of the dressing.
  • Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
  • You may need other treatments for your cancer after you leave the hospital. Treatments may include:
    • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells. Different types of chemotherapy may be given in the hospital, outpatient clinic, or at home.
    • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation treatment may be done in the hospital or and outpatient clinic.
    • Biological therapy, which uses medicine designed to help your immune system fight the cancer or block the growth of cancer cells.
  • Stay away from environmental hazards, such as radon and asbestos. Use protective equipment at work when it is recommended. When possible, stay indoors if the air pollution is severe.
  • Ask your provider if you should get a pneumococcal or flu vaccination.

Appointments

  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for any routine testing you may need, which may be done to look for signs that the cancer has returned or has spread. Testing may include:
    • Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer
    • X-rays: Pictures of the inside of the chest and bones to check for cancer
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of the chest, lungs, and other areas where the cancer may have spread
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin cross sections of the chest, lungs, and other areas where the cancer may have spread
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.

Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Chest pain that does not get better with medicine
  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood or mucus that is thick or blood-stained
  • Trouble breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss more than your healthcare provider recommends in any month
  • Loss of appetite
  • Deep bone pain
  • Signs of an infection. These include:
    • The area around your surgical wound is more red, painful, or very warm to touch
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from your surgical wound
    • You have a fever of 100.5 degrees F (38.1 degrees C) or higher
    • You have chills or muscle aches

For more information:

Contact national and local organizations such as:

  • American Cancer Society, Inc.
    Phone: 1-800-ACS-2345 (800-227-2345)
    Web site: http://www.cancer.org
  • National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service
    Phone: 1-800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237)
    Web site: http://www.cancer.gov
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-19
Last reviewed: 2014-12-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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