Living with

Lung cancer specialist nurses

Lung cancer can affect your daily life in different ways, depending on what stage it's at and the treatment you're having.

Although not all these things work for everybody, there are several ways you can find support to help you cope. You can:

Your specialist team should have at least 1 lung cancer nurse specialist (CNS) working with them. Ask your doctor to arrange for you to see a specialist nurse, who can support you and provide information about other sources of advice and support. They will also have a contact number so you can call them later if you have any questions.

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Breathlessness

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Breathlessness is common in people who have lung cancer, whether it is a symptom of the condition or a side effect of treatment.

In many cases, breathlessness can be improved with some simple measures such as:

If measures like these are not enough to control your breathlessness, you may need further treatment. There are medicines that can help to improve breathlessness. Home oxygen therapy may be an option in severe cases.

If breathlessness is caused by another condition, such as a chest infection or a build-up of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion), treating this may help your breathing.

Pain

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Some people with lung cancer have pain, while others never have any.

Pain is not related to the severity of the cancer – it varies from person to person. What causes cancer pain is not very well understood, but there are ways of treating it so the pain can be controlled.

People with advanced lung cancer may need treatment for pain as their cancer progresses. This can be part of palliative care, and is often provided by doctors, nurses and other members of a palliative care team. You can have palliative care at home, in hospital, in a hospice or other care centre.

Emotional effects and relationships

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Having cancer can lead to a range of emotions. These may include shock, anxiety, relief, sadness and depression.

People deal with serious problems in different ways. It's hard to predict how living with cancer will affect you.

Being open and honest about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help you may put others at ease. But do not feel shy about telling people that you need some time to yourself, if that's what you need.

Talk to others

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Your CNS or GP may be able to reassure you if you have questions, or you may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor, psychologist or someone who works for a specialist phone helpline. Your GP surgery will have information on these.

You may find it helpful to talk about your experience of lung cancer with others at a local support group. Patient organisations have local groups where you can meet other people who have been diagnosed with lung cancer and had treatment.

If you have feelings of depression, talk to a GP so they can provide you with advice and support.

Money and financial support

Free prescriptions

If you have to reduce or stop work because of cancer, you may find it hard to cope financially. If you have cancer or you're caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to financial support.

If you have a job but cannot work because of your illness, you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer.

GOV.UK has more about Statutory Sick Pay

If you do not have a job and cannot work because of your illness, you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance.

GOV.UK has more about Employment and Support Allowance

If you're caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to Carer's Allowance.

GOV.UK has more about Carer’s Allowance

You may also be eligible for other benefits if you have children living at home or you have a low household income.

It's a good idea to find out what help is available to you soon after your diagnosis. You could ask to speak to the social worker at your hospital, who can give you more information.

If you are being treated for cancer, you may be able to apply for an exemption certificate, which gives you free prescriptions for all medicines, including treatment for unrelated conditions.

The certificate is valid for 5 years and you can apply for it by speaking to a GP or cancer specialist.

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Palliative care

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If lung cancer cannot be cured and you have a lot of troubling symptoms, your GP and specialist team can give you support and pain relief. This is called palliative care. Support is also available for your family and friends.

As the cancer progresses, your doctor should work with you to establish a clear management plan based on your (and your carer's) wishes. This includes whether you'd prefer to go to hospital, a hospice, or be looked after at home as you become more ill.

It will take account of what services are available to you locally, what's clinically advisable and your personal circumstances.

Page last reviewed: 1 August 2019
Next review due: 1 August 2022