By Jane Henley and Elizabeth Rohan
In 2016, about 218,000 people were diagnosed with lung cancer. You may know someone with lung cancer—a family member, a friend, a neighbor or a colleague. This November, in recognition of lung cancer awareness month, here are nine incredible ways that you can support lung cancer survivors. (Spoiler: they’re not all that different than ways you would support other cancer survivors.)
Listen. Hearing, “You have lung cancer” can be an overwhelming experience. Sit with them as they process the information. Listen as they talk about their plans for treatment and their worries and their hopes.
Stay connected. Check in regularly throughout treatment. Ask if they would like a meal train. Offer to help with household errands or rides to appointments.
Ask before sharing. If you have a lung cancer story you believe might be helpful, ask before you share, if they’d like to hear your story or what happened with someone else that you may know. Other stories about lung cancer might frighten or minimize the experiences of the survivor you’re talking with.
Don’t offer advice from “Dr. Google.” The Internet can be a source of terrific information about cancer treatment. It can also be a source of inaccurate or harmful information. Lung cancer survivors, like survivors of other cancers, are likely inundated with information from the internet. Limit your searches to reputable sites, such as CDC.
Get a flu shot! Cancer survivors are vulnerable to adverse effects from the flu. It’s important for friends and family members to get a flu shot to protect them.
Be mindful of stigma. Don’t ask lung cancer survivors whether they’ve smoked. This perpetuates the stigma associated with having lung cancer. Ask them how they’re dealing with their diagnosis. Some lung cancer survivors may blame themselves for their cancer and may need encouragement to get the care they need and deserve.
Don’t assume their lung cancer was caused by smoking. Lung cancer can happen to people who have never smoked.
Understand that nicotine addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition. If you know that a lung cancer survivor smokes, encourage them to talk with their doctor who can offer proven treatments that boost the chances of quitting for good.
Show your support for lung cancer survivors. You can participate in walks and campaigns to raise awareness about lung cancer and lung cancer research. New treatments are helping some lung cancer survivors live longer, and more research can help even more patients.
This article was originally published on October 31, 2019, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is republished with permission.