New Initiative Aims to Foster Informed Discussions Between Newly Diagnosed Lung Cancer Patients, Caregivers and Their Healthcare Team
Jodi Parker will never forget the moment in 2013 when she was told she had stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer.
“When I heard the news, I was numb, and it was difficult for me to make sense of what my doctor was saying. I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me,” said Parker, advanced lung cancer patient.
As an oncology nurse, Jodi saw firsthand the challenges of the disease — not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally. So, when she was diagnosed, she was shocked, terrified and wanted to give up.
A new survey confirms that Jodi’s initial apprehension and fear are not uncommon. Newly diagnosed advanced lung cancer patients reported feeling scared (56%), depressed (56%) and hopeless (41%), overwhelmed (41%) and helpless (41%). While grappling with these difficult emotions and adjusting to their new reality, 53% of patients reported that they do not feel informed enough to make a treatment decision.
That’s why Merck is collaborating with GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer (GO2 Foundation) on a new initiative that empowers advanced lung cancer patients, like Jodi, and their loved ones to take an active role in their cancer care. Worth the Fight: Taking on Lung Cancer provides resources that can help people with the disease and their caregivers to have discussions with their healthcare team to better understand the treatment options that might be right for them. Worth the Fight: Taking on Lung Cancer is based on results of a recent survey of over 500 U.S. patients, caregivers and healthcare providers that uncovered the challenges advanced lung cancer patients face at the time of diagnosis.
“Lung cancer is most often diagnosed at an advanced stage when the prognosis is poor, making it critically important for patients and their loved ones to have an open and honest conversation about what treatment options might be right for them at the time of diagnosis,” said Dr. Jacob Sands, thoracic medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
While the majority of patients (85%) and caregivers (87%) become more comfortable discussing their disease with their doctor over time, patients report finding it difficult to absorb everything they are told.
Start a Conversation and Take Action
Effective communications between a patient and their healthcare team, along with helpful resources at the time of diagnosis are vital to directing a patient’s next steps, including whether they and their loved ones think it’s worth the fight to take on advanced lung cancer.
Be Open and Honest: Everyone reacts differently to a cancer diagnosis. While some may want to surround themselves with a circle of support, others find comfort being alone and introspective. Sharing the news with the people around you—whether it’s immediate family, friends or coworkers—may combat feelings of isolation while helping your loved ones understand your needs.
Understand Your Diagnosis and Next Steps: People with lung cancer and their loved ones face an ever increasing amount of new and often complicated information at a time when their ability to process and understand it can be impacted by the stress of their illness.[i] While most healthcare providers (87%) believe it is easy for patients to ask questions during an appointment, more than half of patients surveyed said that they did not know what questions to ask during their visit and 66% of patients could only think of questions to ask after they left the doctor’s office.
Before meeting with your doctor, try to write down your list of questions in advance or use a doctor discussion guide to help prompt conversations with your healthcare team. It’s also good practice to bring someone to your doctor’s appointments or invite them to join telehealth sessions so they can be a be a second set of ears, take notes and lend emotional support.
“My goal is to make sure my patients and their caregivers are not only well-informed about their treatment options, but also feeling motivated to tackle their disease. I encourage my patients to speak up if there’s something they don’t fully understand so that we can talk it through together as a team,” says Dr. Sands.
Seek Support: While talking to friends and family can help, it is sometimes best to speak with people who have gone through a similar situation. Other cancer survivors and caregivers can share their experiences and provide insight into what you can expect throughout your journey.
Support groups are another valuable resource. Ask your doctor about support groups in your area or visit GO2 Foundation's website for support groups, online patient communities, and more. Whether in-person or online, there are numerous communities, chat rooms and message boards that bring together patients, caregivers and cancer survivors.
Join The Fight
Jodi credits good communication as one of the main reasons she’s still fighting today.
A conversation with a trusted friend, who was also a doctor, was the wake-up call she needed. After that call, Jodi decided she didn’t want to give up and reached out to her oncologist. After an open discussion with her doctor, Jodi weighed her options and decided to seek treatment.
“I’m so grateful that I’ve had a strong support system to lean on, including my incredible healthcare team who always partnered to make sure I understood my options and could make informed decisions about my care,” said Parker. “Seven years, one wedding and three grandchildren later - my cancer has returned. But it’s never been clearer that it’s worth the fight.”
An advanced lung cancer diagnosis does not have to mean giving up. You are worth the fight. Visit www.fightlungcancer.com to download a discussion guide to help you and your loved ones have an informed conversation with your doctor about treatment options and additional support resources.
This content is brought to you by Merck in collaboration with GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer.