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Lung Cancer Stories - Choosing a Lung Cancer Treatment

What Lung Cancer Treatment Did Dan Choose?


Updated February 09, 2012

How can you choose the best lung cancer treatment? You are not alone as you weigh through the options available.

A friend’s husband Dan, an ex-smoker of 3 years, was devastated to find out he had lung cancer. He had struggled to quit smoking for half his life and finally succeeded, only to be bothered by a constant nagging cough. He jokingly told us perhaps he should start smoking again.

The first weeks of his journey were a blur. CT, Bronchoscopy, PET scan, brain scan, abdominal CT scan, intermixed with visits with an oncologist, radiation oncologist, chemotherapy nurse, and his regular doctor. He felt like he was learning a foreign language he had never wished to learn. After his trial of studies was completed, the verdict was delivered. He had stage 3A non-small cell lung cancer, squamous cell type.

A diagnosis in hand, he felt somewhat better. Sometimes a solid diagnosis is better than uncertainty. At least there was a visible enemy to fight now. So he moved forth with renewed energy and sat down with his oncologist. He was told his cancer was not curable, but that treatment could improve his quality of life, and probably, the amount of time he had left. He went home thinking of the future.

At home, he scoured the internet looking up anything he could find on his type and stage of lung cancer. Discouraged by the outlook, he broke down crying. His wife quietly listened, but then offered a spark of hope. “Statistics are just that. They don’t look at individual people. Maybe there are other options.” He hesitated. He did not want to offend his doctor by getting a second opinion.

Dan and his wife Jan decided to visit another teaching institution not far from their home. Here, they were given an option for a clinical trial, as well as the opportunity to use another chemotherapy medication that had not been mentioned by their first oncologist. They called everyone they knew, confused about what to do next. The future perhaps looked greener in this direction.

Which option did they choose? The answer is none of the above. They sought out a 3rd opinion near the home of Dan’s parents. Having children later in life, they wanted someone nearby that could help with kids while they went through therapy. With their 3rd opinion they were given the option of a different clinical trial combined with alternative medicine such as massage therapy and healing touch. In addition to proximity to family, this approach appealed to their desire to try as many natural remedies as possible. They decided to pursue this option with gusto.

What would Dan wish to share with someone recently diagnosed with cancer? Don't be afraid to ask for a 2nd opinion...or a 3rd or a 4th. Oncologists expect this, and want you to find a center that best fits your needs. For Dan, being near family (though far from his home) was important. The opportunity to combine traditional treatment with complementary therapies met his wife, Jan's need to pursue "natural" alternatives. We all have different needs when faced with a diagnosis of cancer. Listen to others opinions - but be true to yourself.

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