Living with Lung Cancer

  • 01 Aug, 2020
  • By UHAPO
  • 485

Lung cancer is the major cause of oncologic-related death worldwide. Management includes surgery, adjuvant chemotherapy, and radiation therapy; however, it is burdened by many side effects[1]. A lung cancer diagnosis can bring up many emotions; further living with lung cancer can also impact the daily life of the patient.


Progress of the disease, severity of its symptoms, and side effects significantly affect the quality of life (QoL), well-being, and daily social functioning in these patients. (Table.1)[1]


Table 1: Factors Influencing The Quality of Life (QoL)

Factors Lowering Quality of Life(QoL):


  • Elderly people above 65 years of age 

  • Smokers

  • Low income

  • Severe symptoms: Chronic fatigue, dyspnea, cough, pain, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, loss of appetite

  • More symptoms

  • Skills of coping with the disease


A 2015 survey found that 64% of people who have the disease ranked things like self-care, body image, changing relationships, and meeting their own emotional needs as their biggest hurdles[2]. However, the more the patient may know about lung cancer, the better the patient will be able to manage their disease. The following can be the key strategies to cope up with condition[1]


  • Identification of factors influencing the quality of life

  • Limitation of the number and severity of disease symptoms with the use of pharmacological and non-pharmacological modalities

  • Psychological, social, and spiritual support


"Exercise, nutrition, smoking cessation, managing pain and shortness of breath, and getting recommended treatment and supportive care can benefit patients to improve quality of life."


Managing lung cancer symptoms[3],[4],[5],[6]


The severity and the number of symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, cough, and pain can affect a patient's quality of life. Breathlessness can also be a symptom of the condition or a side effect of treatment. Feeling short of breath can cause anxiety.


  • Breathing in slowly through the nose and out through the mouth or breathing exercises like belly breathing, Pursed-lip breathing,  progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery can help calm the mind when anxiety hits further making daily activities easier.


  • People with advanced lung cancer may need treatment for pain as their cancer progresses.


Looking after yourself[3],[4],[5]


Having cancer can lead to a range of emotions such as irritation, distress, anxiety, and depression. 

Respiratory problems also reduce the psychological aspect of QoL, while sleep problems reduce cognitive functioning. Finally, most patients are unable to play their family and social roles. 


  • Talking to others may help the patient to lose the emotional burden


  • Getting enough sleep is a key component of keeping emotional energy up.


  • An oncology social worker, counselor, or psychologist can help them develop more effective ways of coping and talking about cancer.


  • Controlling the level of fatigue with the use of pharmacological and non-pharmacological modalities including physical activity, saving energy, rest, sleep, reducing stress, and a proper diet can be suggested.


  • Pulmonary rehabilitation and social and spiritual support are also recommended.


Traveling with lung cancer[4],[6]


For many people living with lung cancer, going on holiday or traveling will have little or no impact on how well you are. In fact, getting away can help improve patient mental health by taking a break from everyday pressures. 


It is important to plan any trips or holidays before you travel. Travelling can be tiring, and the further or longer you travel, the more you could be affected, particularly if your health isn’t good.


The patient may need to speak to a doctor before making any travel plans. They can tell the patient if lung cancer treatment may make traveling unsafe. They can also tell what you might need to consider when traveling abroad. 


It is a good idea to carry all medicines, covering letters and licenses for controlled drugs in hand luggage, as customs officers will usually need to see them. Also, try to keep medicines in their original packaging so they can be easily identified.




Day-to-day life with lung cancer can be just as tough as the treatment for it. Strategies like managing symptoms, emotional and physical health can help the patient to improve their quality of life.






  1. Polanski J, Jankowska-Polanska B, Rosinczuk J, Chabowski M, Szymanska-Chabowska A. Quality of life of patients with lung cancer. Onco Targets Ther. 2016;9:1023-1028. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4778772/


  1. Practical Advice for Living With Lung Cancer, Available at: https://www.webmd.com/cancer/features/lung-cancer-life-advice#1, Last access on  14th July, 2020


  1. Coping with emotions when you have lung cancer, Available at: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/patients/find-support/coping-with-emotions, Last access on  14th July, 2020


  1. Lung Cancer - Non-Small Cell: Coping with Treatment, Available at: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/lung-cancer-non-small-cell/coping-with-treatment, Last access on  14th July, 2020


  1. Living with lung cancer, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lung-cancer/living-with/, Last access on  14th July, 2020


  1. Living with lung cancer. Available at: https://www.roycastle.org/about-lung-cancer/living-with-lung-cancer/travelling-with-lung-cancer/, Last access on  14th July, 2020