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Can Lifestyle Factors Impact Lung Cancer Treatment?

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Published on January 24, 2018

Can patients put themselves more at risk in their everyday lives? How important are lifestyle choices that are compatible with treatment? Dr. Christine Lovly sheds light on things patients could be doing in everyday life that are potentially harmful or beneficial to lung cancer treatment. She also discusses the shame and blame associated with lung cancer, and why open communication with a patient’s healthcare team is crucial.

The Living Well with Lung Cancer series was a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power. We thank Celgene, Helsinn, Novartis and Genentech for their support.

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Transcript | Can Lifestyle Factors Impact Lung Cancer Treatment?

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That's how you’ll get care that's most appropriate for you.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

Christine, one of the things that many people are asking, and I know we got this sent in to us, that says, what can I be doing in my everyday life to augment the treatment plan I'm on?  So diet.  We talked about exercise.  David is doing great.  And you said that even you all were talking about just getting outside, there's evidence for that.  So this relates a little bit to what we were just saying about cannabis.  Somebody, maybe a family member, says, well, you can smoke marijuana, and that's going to help with nausea, or you can take this supplement or whatever?  So that relates to communication but also a concern, is there something that I might take or do that will degrade the effectiveness of the cancer therapies you're giving me? 

So we've got to talk about it, right?  But do you have any concerns sometimes there's something somebody may do rather than being helpful could be counterproductive? 

Dr. Lovly:

Yes.  So this is actually a very important topic.  I would say for patients—often want to think about things like over-the-counter vitamins or supplements or minerals, products that, as Dr. Subbiah was just talking about, are not regulated to the same level that our medications are.  I strongly advise patients to tell their doctors what they're taking that may be over the counter, because it is critical for your doctor to know what you're taking so that he or she can know if it's interacting with any of your anti-cancer drugs. 

It's hard for me to generalize, because they the interactions are going to be dependent on what specific cancer therapy a patient is receiving, but the point here is that it's critical to communicate what are you are taking to your doctor and not worry that there's going to be any shame or blame or laughing about it. 

I think it's just part of that very open communication that you have to have with your doctor and feel like you have a trust between you to be able to talk honestly about things and to be able to decide, are these supplements that I'm taking could they potentially actually hurt me or make my cancer therapy worse?  And certainly that's something that's in all of our best interests to know. 

Andrew Schorr:

Christine, I want to bring up something for you.  Before the program, you and I were talking, and you had a concern that patients that some patients don't bring up some symptoms or concerns they have, because they feel in the case of lung cancer and maybe what their lifestyle had been beforehand that they have some blame that goes with it, and they don't deserve the best care.  Talk about that for a minute. 

Dr. Lovly:

Yeah.  So to me this is one of the biggest issues.  I think for every lung cancer patient being diagnosed with lung cancer is almost synonymous with getting the question how much did you smoke?

And whether you smoked or not and whether you're an ongoing smoker or not, there should not be any blame in cancer.  To me, this is not something that anybody deserves to go through, that anybody wants to see someone suffer through.  It's not about what you did or what you are doing in your life.  And I always tell patients, listen, we all have potentially bad habits that we may want to change, but that doesn't mean you need to get cancer, deserve to get cancer as a result of your bad habit. 

And so I think that there's a lot of blame and shame in lung cancer diagnosis, and I really hope that we can as a community just move beyond that.  Because nobody wants to see anybody suffering from lung cancer, and I think that it often is a barrier for patients telling their physician what's going on with them on a symptom level, because they feel like they deserve what's happening to them, and that is absolutely—could not be further from the truth. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.