What are some key lung cancer concepts that patients can learn about? Dr. Lecia Sequist explains lung cancer versus metastatic lung cancer and additional terms that can be helpful for patients to educate themselves about for empowered care.
Dr. Sequist is program director of Cancer Early Detection & Diagnostics at Massachusetts General Hospital and also The Landry Family Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“…you’re not alone. The terms are confusing. A lot of people get lost in the terminology, the medical terminology. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or go to a website that is recommended, that’s been vetted by doctors to really have good quality information to help you understand what these terms mean.”
Dr. Sequist, we know that cancer isn’t just one disease. There are different types of cancer and even within one type of cancer, there are many different mutations that can occur within those cancer cells. Can you speak to some of those mutations with non-small cell lung cancer?
Dr. Lecia Sequist:
Yeah. Cancer is really complicated, and it gets confusing, for both doctors and patients. We usually call a cancer by the organ that it started in. So if the cancer starts in the lung, it’s usually called lung cancer. And it gets confusing because if the cancer spreads to another part of the body, it’s still considered lung cancer. So if someone started with a cancer in their lung, but it’s spread to their bones, the doctors would usually call it metastatic lung cancer that went to the bones as opposed to, I think a lot of people think of that as, now I have bone cancer. And so it can be very confusing. In addition to the broad type of cancer, like lung cancer, there are subtypes and then there are genetic subtypes. So there’s a lot of terms that get thrown out. And sometimes learning that you have cancer and learning about it, it’s almost like learning a foreign language. There’s so many terms that you have to first learn what the terms mean.
So I think my activation tip for this question would be, you’re not alone. The terms are confusing. A lot of people get lost in the terminology, the medical terminology. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or go to a website that is recommended, that’s been vetted by doctors to really have good quality information to help you understand what these terms mean. There’s also a lot of misinformation on the websites, that’s why you have to go to a site that maybe your doctor or your patient network recommends to make sure you’re getting accurate information. But the terms can be confusing. But it’s important to understand what you’ve been diagnosed with, so you can understand what your options are.