HealthThe Importance of Discussing Your Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer Diagnosis

The Importance of Discussing Your Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer Diagnosis

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Discovering that you have non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) can be a lot to handle. And so is sharing your diagnosis with others.

It’s natural to be concerned about how others will react. You might not want your friends and family to worry or treat you differently, says Jacob Sands, MD, lung cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and spokesperson for the American Lung Association.

However, it’s important to talk about it. Your loved ones can offer the support you need, such as a shoulder to lean on, a ride to the doctor’s office, or extra pair of hands at home.

So how do you go about letting people know? There’s no one right way. But the following steps may make the conversation go smoother for you and your loved ones.

1. Decide Who You Want to Tell

You don’t have to tell everyone right away. It may help to first write down everyone you want to notify and when you want to tell them. 

Your list may include:

  • Spouse or partner. They’re often the first person you’ll want to tell. In many cases, your partner is your support system and caregiver when you undergo treatments.
  • Kids and grandkids. They can sense when something’s wrong, so it’s important to tell them the truth. “I was 13 when my dad passed of lung cancer,” says Jill Feldman, who was diagnosed with NSCLC in 2009. “From my experience, I knew that I had to be open and honest with my kids, too.”
  • Friends and family. They can also offer support and a sense of community.
  • Employers and co-workers. At some point, you may need time off or schedule changes. Keep in mind that federal law prohibits them from discriminating against lung cancer patients. You’ll need to talk with someone in your human resources department.

2. Consider How You Want to Break the News

When sharing your diagnosis in person, you’ll want to find a quiet, private place to speak openly. You may want to have a loved one, such as your spouse, with you for support.

In many cases, you may not have the time, energy, or desire to talk to everyone one-on-one. You can also tell people:

  • In a group. Just make sure everyone’s there before you begin. “Midway through telling my close-knit Bible study group, someone walked in and derailed the conversation,” says Conneran.
  • Through a loved one. Ask that a trusted person tell others. Let them know what and how much you want to share.
  • By email, text, or a website. You can keep people updated through email or text. Or set up a website, such as CaringBridge. “I sent an email to the parents of my kids’ friends so there wouldn’t be any misinformation that would get back to them,” says Feldman. Include how you’d like people to respond; you may prefer not to get calls.

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