How Can I Live Healthy After a Small Cell Lung Cancer Diagnosis?

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Topics include: Living With Lung Cancer

Can I live healthy with small cell lung cancer (SCLC)? Andrew Schorr and Dr. Laura Chow from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance discuss whether there are diets that can help people with SCLC. Jerry Schreiber, a SCLC survivor, discusses what he does to feel in control in his cancer journey, while Carly Ornstein shares her tips for coping. Watch for their expert tips on how to live well with SCLC.

Produced by Patient Power. We thank Celgene, Helsinn, Novartis and Genentech for their support.

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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:

People want to know what they can do to be as healthy as they can while they're living with small cell lung cancer.  And family members want to know, spouses want to know, grandchildren want to know how they can help children. 

And one of the things about diet, we got this question from Greece, and Stephano said his mother was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer, limited stage, in August 2017. And she started on a chemo regimen, which she had, and she's had a couple of rounds.  She's headed for the third round.  

And the doctor said, well, eat whatever you want, you know, just go live your life, but the family decided to do an alkaline diet free from red meat, dairy, processed sugar and wheat flowers, and they're also doing some natural supplements and smoothies, so everybody wants to do what they can.  Dr. Chow, where's the evidence related to small cell lung cancer related to diet? 

Dr. Chow:

So unfortunately, there is not a lot of evidence based on different diets for treating small cell lung cancer, and we haven't done a lot of research studies that say that this is a diet that will help people get through treatment better.  But we do think that part of the difficulty of having lung cancer is the feeling of lack of control, and oftentimes patients will feel like if they can do something themselves in terms of modifying their diet or having family members take an interest in their diet, that's something they feel like they can do to make their lives better, give them a sense of control.  And if that's the case, I really do not have a problem with that.  I would encourage them to try whatever diet they want to try as long as it doesn't cause them to have weight loss or nausea, vomiting or feel unwell. 

I normally recommend that since sometimes blood counts can be low during chemoradiation to avoid raw foods and to watch vegetables.  That's usually helpful.  The other healthy thing is a lot of people find it difficult to maintain their weight, so eating enough protein and having good muscle strength is usually quite important since it's a difficult time.  So I think some dietary modifications can really help patients feel a little bit better during their treatment. 

Andrew Schorr:

Okay. And Jerry's golfing. 

So, Jerry, besides the golf, what do you do to help you feel living life and maybe more in control?  And what does your family do for you?  

Jerry Schreiber:

Well, the family is always around.  They're not far from me and my wife—I'm kind of semiretired, so my wife and I do things together.  We're very active in watching sports, and we do that.  So we keep ourselves busy and don't really dwell on the cancer.  To me, my outlook right now is that's in the past.  I continue to do the things that I will have to do while being tested, but I'm looking at it as that's in the past and I'm moving forward. 

Andrew Schorr:

Amen.  So, Carly, what do you tell people and what do your counselors at the American Lung Association tell people about things they can do that might help them feel better? 

You talked about empowering them in dialogue with their doctor and getting the right healthcare team, but I'm sure people ask you all about diet, exercise, all sorts of things. 

Carly Ornstein:
Absolutely. Well, diet and exercise can be very helpful especially in symptom management, and I'm sure that Jerry can attest that when you feel better, you know, physically you feel better mentally and you're able to do the things that you've always general joyed doing.  So if you're experiencing any side effects like shortness of breath or nausea or vomiting or anything like that, your diet can really impact that. 

And sometimes at certain hospitals and cancer centers there's a nutritionist oncologist, a nutritionist with a specialty in oncology that can help navigate some of that for you, and certainly your physician can help as well. 

I know a lot of cancer patients struggle with fatigue, and one way to combat that is actually through physical activity, which seems a little counterintuitive.  It doesn't have to be crazy, but three times a week, 30 minutes, getting your heart rate up just a little bit can be very helpful. 

And, you know, we just encourage people to really try and eat well, whatever that means for them, and stay somewhat active as much as they can so that their quality of life is improved. 

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. 

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Page last updated on June 25, 2019