When lung cells change and grow uncontrollably and form a mass called a nodule, lesion, or tumor, lung cancer is said to begin. A lung tumor can be benign or cancerous and can start to form anywhere in the lung. Once the cancerous tumor grows, it may or may not shed cancer cells that can float away in the lymph fluid surrounding the lung tissue or get carried away in the blood. The lymph fluid flows through lymphatic vessels, or tubes that drain into collecting stations known as lymph nodes. These bean-shaped, tiny organs help the body to fight infections and are located in the center of the chest, the lungs, and elsewhere throughout the body. The lymph naturally flows out of the lungs toward the chest, which can explain why lung cancer often initially spreads there. When a cancer cell moves into a distant part of the body or into a lymph node through the bloodstream, it is called metastasis.
How Palliative Care Can Help
People with serious illnesses such as lung cancer may benefit from a specialized form of medical care known as “palliative care.” This particular treatment method focuses on providing relief from stress, pain, and symptoms, and the goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and his or her family. Palliative care is appropriate at any stage in the illness and at any age, and patients can receive palliative care in combination with their traditional treatments meant to cure their illnesses.
Palliative care is provided by a team of specialists, including social workers, nurses, palliative care doctors, and others. The team partners with the patient’s oncologist, primary doctor, and other healthcare providers to help manage the patient’s symptoms and pain.
If chemotherapy is part of the patient’s lung cancer treatment plan, palliative care can help to manage side effects such as insomnia, depression, constipation and diarrhea, fatigue, pain, vomiting, and nausea. In addition, radiation therapy for lung cancer can sometimes make it difficult for a patient to eat, and he or she may experience fatigue and pain. Palliative care teams are specially trained to help treat all of these symptoms and more.
Palliative care can also effectively manage postoperative pain. It has been shown to reduce anxiety in several ways through relaxation, guided imagery, massage, and medication. A lung cancer diagnosis brings feelings of depression, fear, and anxiety, especially when faced with questions about what the future will hold. In addition to medical training to care for symptoms, palliative care teams are also formally trained in support and communication. Patients can discuss their concerns, fears, and issues with the team and get help through relaxation strategies, resources, medications, and talk therapy.
Since an estimated 85 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses result from cigarette smoking, many patients blame themselves, believing that lung cancer could have been avoided. Palliative care teams can help patients to explore these feelings in order to achieve serenity, acceptance, and relaxation.
Managing Life With A Serious Illness
Patients might be wondering what the future of their relationships will look like following a lung cancer diagnosis. However, palliative care teams can help families to plan for the future and offer practical advice about speaking with loved ones following the news of lung cancer. They also help patients to make difficult decisions.
Social workers on palliative care teams are instrumental in helping design a discharge plan for patients that meets both the patient’s needs and the needs of his or her family. Since palliative care is centered around family, care is provided to each family member. Above all, the palliative care team is concerned with ensuring that the patient and his or her family are able to live life to the fullest following a cancer diagnosis.
Need Palliative Care?
If you or someone you love is interested in palliative care, speak with your doctor to obtain a referral. It is relatively easy to find a hospital or facility with a palliative care team in your area. Simply contact our organization to learn more about this particular treatment method and to determine whether it is the best course of action for you and your family.