Frequently Asked Questions
Lung Cancer

Q. I’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer and it was confirmed with a biopsy. I keep hearing about second opinions. Should I get a second opinion?
A. A second opinion is often valuable. Even if your diagnosis does not change with a second opinion, a second opinion on treatment is useful to help you determine the best way to treat your specific cancer.

Q. I have been told that I have lung cancer and the doctor said it was “inoperable.” Does that mean that my situation is hopeless and that I’m just going to die?
A. Inoperable means that surgery is not an option for your type of lung cancer. There may be other treatment options to shrink or even kill the cancer, slow its growth, and to help with side effects. There are treatments available for every stage of lung cancer.

Q. I have been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and have started chemotherapy. Should I have a Prophylactic Cranial Irradiation (PCI)?
A. “PCI” or Prophylactic Cranial Irradiation, a treatment for small cell lung cancer, is a radiation therapy procedure which is a part of the standard course of treatment. Its purpose is to irradiate the brain to destroy rapidly progressing, undetectable lung cancer metastases to the brain, as small cell lung cancer has a tendency to metastasize very quickly to the brain.

Q. The doctor has told me that he wants me to start on chemotherapy. I’ve heard bad things about reactions to chemotherapy and would rather be on radiation for my lung cancer. Can I have radiation instead of chemotherapy?
A. Undergoing chemotherapy can be a scary experience, especially if you have heard that another treatment is better. However, your doctor made her recommendation based on your specific cancer and your general health and she has your best interest in mind. Please share your concerns with your doctor.

Q. My doctor says that I will have an operation to remove my lung cancer. Why does he want me to have chemotherapy and radiation before the surgery?
A. Sometimes, treating a cancer before surgery will shrink the tumor, thus allowing the surgeon to more successfully remove it.

Q. How accurate is the doctor’s prognosis about my lung cancer?
A. A doctor makes a prognosis based on many factors, including the specific type of cancer, its stage, and the general health and age of the patient. Doctors carefully gather as much information as they can before they make a prognosis. However, a second opinion may provide additional information.

Q. My doctor told me that I have stage IIIa lung cancer. What do these stages mean? Why do they have “stages” of lung cancer?
A. Cancers are classified into stages in order provide guidance for treatment decisions. The stages take into consideration the tumor size, if lymph nodes are involved, and if the cancer has metastasized, among other factors. Stage IIIa means that the lung cancer has spread to the lymph nodes outside of the lung but on the same side of the body where the cancer started. The staging section of this web site has additional information on this topic.

Q. I have been diagnosed with lung cancer. I am also a smoker. Should I quit now?
A. Research shows that there are some immediate health benefits of quitting smoking, including enhanced circulation and lowered blood pressure. Quitting smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer can help your body better cope with the treatment you are about to undergo.

Q. I’ve read that high doses of vitamins can help treat my lung cancer. Should I begin taking them?
A. Up till now, there is no evidence that high doses of vitamins can help treat lung cancer. You should consult your doctor before starting any dietary supplements.

Q. I have smoked for 25 years but don’t have lung cancer. Should I have an annual lung screening?
A. Screening can find cancers when they are early, and therefore more treatable. Recent investigational studies have indicated that there is a benefit in screening for individuals with extensive tobacco smoking histories. You should discuss your interest in lung screening with your doctor,