This is the sixth part of our series about the condition based on our patient booklet “Fast Facts for Patients: Non-small Cell Lung Cancer with KRAS Mutation”. This article deals with how to talk to your doctor about your treatment and about finding further information and support.
Talking to Your Doctor about Your Treatment
The reason a doctor suggests a new treatment for advanced cancer is often because the treatment you’re on is no longer helping. This can be devastating to hear. It’s common for people to focus on it so much that they don’t hear anything else that’s said.
It may be more helpful to talk about any new treatment options at another appointment, when you’ve had time to sort out what you’d like to ask.
It’s a good idea to make a plan for the appointment by listing the questions you have. If you know you will be discussing something new with your doctor, it can help to take someone with you. They may pick up on things that you miss and vice versa.
Some doctors are happy for you to record consultations – but ask for permission first.
Your doctor has spent many years studying cancer care, and cancer is complicated. If you don’t understand something, ask your doctor to explain in a different way. You don’t have to know or use technical terms – but there is a guide to words and phrases in the back of this booklet if you want to know what they mean.
If you’re not eligible for current KRAS-targeted treatment, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial. If you’re interested, ask your doctor for more details.
Questions for Your Doctor about KRAS-Targeted Therapy
If you’re eligible for current KRAS-targeted therapy, questions for your doctor may include:
- What are the aims of this treatment?
- How do I take the treatment?
- How many times a day do I take it?
- Can I take the treatment at home?
- Can I continue to take other prescribed medicines?
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
- What should I do if I am sick after taking a dose?
- For how long will I take the treatment?
- What should I do if I have difficulty swallowing it?
- What are the most common side effects?
- How will I be monitored when I am on the treatment?
Finding Further Information and Support
It can be difficult to cope when you have an advanced cancer. But you don’t have to do it all alone. There may be times when you need the support of others. There are some steps you can take to try to make sure you have all the support you need.
Find Out about NSCLC and Its Treatment
People vary in how much they want to know when they have a life-threatening illness. Some people want to know everything, while others want to hear as little as possible about their illness or treatment. It’s completely up to you.
Being informed about your condition may help you to deal with it. It may give you back a sense of control. The more you know about a situation, the less scary it may seem. And, by being better placed to make decisions about your own treatment, you will be more in control.
You may also get more out of your consultations with your doctors and nurses. If you understand your condition and treatment, it may help you to communicate most effectively with them. And do ask for more explanation if there’s anything that’s not clear to you.
Share with Your Family and Friends
It’s often said that people don’t know what to say when someone close to them has cancer. That can be true. But most people are willing to talk about it – or better still, listen. They may not know whether you want to talk and are waiting for you to bring it up.
Of course, it’s entirely your choice who you tell and what you tell them. But sharing what you know and how you feel with your family and friends may help them to cope and to better support you. Tell them you don’t expect them to have answers, but that it helps to have someone to listen if you’re coming to an important decision.
Find Others in a Similar Situation
Finding others in a similar situation to you can be an important source of psychological support. Your specialist nurse may know of local support or patient advocacy groups that you can go to.
Local face-to-face support groups are usually for people with all types of cancer so you may not find people in exactly the same situation, but there are likely to be other people who’ve been told they have an advanced cancer, so they’ll have some idea of what it’s been like for you.
With online forums, finding other people with the same condition as you is easier than it used to be. A lot of people prefer to make contact online because it’s anonymous and can feel safe – you’re not so exposed. There are some details at the back of this booklet about support organizations you may find helpful.
As we’ve said, your own specialist is best placed to advise you on treatment because they know you so well. However, it’s understandable to want to check that what you’ve been told about your situation is correct.
Most cancer specialists are used to people asking for a second opinion. They understand that you are not questioning their judgement but want to explore every avenue.
If you feel awkward asking your current specialist, you can ask your primary care (general) practitioner. If you are making a private approach to a cancer specialist, you may be able to make an appointment yourself. But it’s best to involve your specialist if you can. They will let the doctor providing the second opinion have access to all your scans and test results. If this isn’t possible, you may need to have some repeated.
Information based on Fast Facts for Patients: Non-small Cell Lung Cancer with KRAS Mutation (Karger, 2023).