You’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer. Now what?

If you’re newly diagnosed with lung cancer, you may be feeling overwhelmed with many questions. This guide aims to help you address some likely questions and prepare you for your first appointment with a lung cancer specialist – to assist you in finding the right path for your lung cancer treatment.

There are several categories of lung cancer. The type you have will determine the treatment you need. The two most common forms of lung cancer are small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. You can read more about those by visiting our Small Cell and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Overview page.

What Kind of Doctor Should I See?

Your diagnosis may have come from your primary care physician, a pulmonologist (lung specialist), or another doctor who cared for you when you noticed symptoms. However, you’ll need to see an oncologist for cancer treatment.

Oncology is the expertise of cancer and a medical oncologist is a specialist in medicines chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy.

Your medical oncologist will spend time with you and your family to understand your specific situation. He/she will consult with the Compass Oncology team of lung cancer experts to develop a specific treatment plan for you, based on the type of lung cancer you have. The medical oncologist also typically leads the care for lung cancer patients by bringing in other types of doctors as needed for your treatment plan.

While being treated at an outpatient office in the Portland-Vancouver area, you will also meet with other lung cancer specialists throughout the treatment program including one or more of the following:

  • Cancer surgeon
  • Radiation oncologist, who uses radiation therapy to target the cancer cells and kill them.
  • Oncology nurses who will work with your physician to provide oral or intravenous treatments in our offices. They will help answer frequently asked questions.
  • Other cancer care specialists who can assist with symptom management, nutrition, supportive care, etc.

Find a Medical Oncologist

What is the Extent of My Lung Cancer?

Once you’ve chosen an oncologist to treat your cancer, s/he will determine the stage based upon the results of any biopsy and images taken. The stage of your lung cancer will be one of the many determining factors in the treatment that is recommended.

At Compass Oncology, the lung cancer specialist will recommend treatment for your individual situation and specific type of lung cancer. Because Compass has four locations, your cancer treatment can be provided at a clinic that is most convenient to your home or work. To learn more about the various types of treatment for lung cancer visit our Lung Cancer Treatment Options section.

Keep Notes and Records

Before you see an oncologist, we recommend getting a notebook and folder to take notes and keep paperwork together for your lung cancer treatment. Or, you may prefer using the “notes” feature on your phone.

Start this notebook as soon as you’re diagnosed, even if you’re seeing your Primary Care Physician or a pulmonologist before you consult with an oncologist. Keep track of any questions, dates, medicine schedules, and how you are feeling. This is all important information to share with your lung cancer care team.

Questions to Consider Before You Arrive

You may want to use your note-taking system to write down questions as they come up amongst your family members or things that you may want to ask your oncologist regarding your diagnosis, treatment, or any other parts of your cancer journey. Here are some common questions that would be good to ask:

  • If you smoke, what programs are available to help you stop as quickly as possible?
  • If you smoke, are there medications that are available to stop the craving for nicotine?
  • What type of lung cancer do you have and what is the recommended treatment process for it?
  • What are the side effects you might have? Will you lose your hair?
  • Do you need to continue going to your primary care doctor for things that may not seem like they’re a cancer symptom or side effect of treatment?
  • Do you call your primary care doctor or the oncology office if you have questions about things that may not seem related to the cancer treatment?
  • Will you need surgery? At what point in the treatment process would that occur?
  • Are there any activities to avoid? Any you should add to your routine?
  • What is best to eat and drink while going through lung cancer treatment?
  • Are there cancer research trials that might be an option?
  • Is there access to supportive care such as support groups or counseling?

Clinical Research Trials

Through our participation in US Oncology Research, our oncologists have helped play a role in the development of more than 50 FDA-approved drugs - nearly 1/3 of all approved cancer therapies, and we offer clinical trials that are not available anywhere else in the Portland and Vancouver area. We are currently offering multiple trials for eligible lung cancer patients.

Learn more and view open lung cancer clinical trials in the Portland and Vancouver area. Be sure to ask your physician if any current trials are a good fit for you.


The financial aspect of cancer treatment is one of the biggest concerns for most patients. You’re probably wondering what your insurance will cover for cancer treatment.

If you obtain a description of your medical insurance benefits, a general understanding will be helpful and a patient benefits specialist at Compass Oncology will then guide you through the details based on the specific lung cancer treatment the oncologist has planned for you.

Your First Oncology Appointment

We highly recommend you take a relative or friend to your appointments who can help you with taking notes and listening since there will be a lot of information reviewed and it can be hard to process everything if you’re alone.

Click here to read our recommendations for your first visit at Compass Oncology.

Should I Get a Second Opinion?

It’s really important that you feel confident in the diagnosis and the doctor who will be leading your cancer treatment. Many patients choose to get a second opinion before beginning any lung cancer treatment plan, and that is perfectly normal. At Compass Oncology, our physicians provide many second opinions – for all types of cancer diagnoses and treatment plans. Most insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but you should always check with your insurance provider to check your coverage before making an appointment.

To schedule a second opinion with one of our physicians, please choose a location that is convenient for you and call our office to make an appointment.

Community Resources

We know this is a difficult time, but you can do this. And the Compass Oncology team of physicians and cancer care specialists are ready to help you every step of the way. There are also cancer support groups that Compass Oncology hosts as well as others in the Portland and Vancouver communities that can help you. Visit our Patient Resources page for more information.

You can also check out our list of support groups that you may find helpful.