I am an outsider to the medical sciences, yet now in desperate need of knowledge to help a family member with lung cancer navigate the difficult medical system in our country. I would like to develop the knowledge to be able to read up on, and have educated discussions on treatment options. I have a great deal of time for reading and am confident of my ability to study the background material.

As a layperson, what study materials could help me gain a deeper understanding of lung cancer?

Thank you very much.

  • 1
    Generally, recommendation requests are off topic on almost every SE site. I've posed the question on meta to get a community consensus.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 14:59
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    @JohnP I edited the Q to make it more adherent to site guidelines - though I do realize it is still a recommendations type Q that is by nature opinion-based, I feel it had potential to help others seek knowledge on their own.
    – DoctorWhom
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 0:11
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    @Gordon The article you linked to seems reasonable, but the site in general is a bunch of click bait. (That's why they broke the article into 11 pages unnecessarily - to present more ads.) The same information can be found on more reputable sites that don't sell supplements. We prefer such sites here. Also, answering in comments is to be avoided.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 2:08
  • Understood. Thanks.
    – Gordon
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 2:25
  • @DoctorWhom this is much better. I think the consensus is that recommendation requests are off topic, but this I think dodges that nicely.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 15:26

1 Answer 1


Cancer can be one of the most complicated concepts in medicine, not only because of the pathophysiology of cancer, but the complicated statistics involved in the epidemiology of the diseases and interpreting the results of studies on treatments.

If your previous studies have been completely outside of the biological sciences, it will be very difficult to gain the degree of understanding that you seem to want. Even if you have some biology background, at best, you should definitely not expect to gain the expertise to confidently second-guess actual medical providers.

However, I applaud you for your desire to understand as much as possible, and you certainly may be able to learn enough to follow along in conversations about risks and benefits of different treatment options, and to have educated discussions about what is going on with your loved one.

You might FIRST START with patient education websites from the NIH or CDC on the basics of lung cancer, then fill in the gaps of details and background needed using textbooks on the underlying concepts.

For that, these are some of the more popular texts used in medical school, if you are able to get your hands on them, which have good sections on lung cancer.

Advancing your understanding of the mechanisms underlying cancer development and progression:

  • Pathoma (the sections on oncogenesis are fantastic)

I would also do some reading on how to interpret the statistics pertinent to cancer, such as odds ratio, relative risk, number needed to treat, sensitivity/specificity, incidence, mortality rates, 5 year survival rates, etc. Statistics are not taught well in most schools these days and additional knowledge is important to being able to understand how decisions are made.


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