Lung cancer

Lung cancer is a cancerous tumour in the tissue of one or both of the lungs.

 

What is lung cancer?

The lungs are the main organs for breathing and are part of the respiratory system that includes the nose, mouth, windpipe and airways (large airways, bronchi; smaller airways, bronchioles) to each lung. Lung cancer is a cancerous tumour in the tissue of one or both of the lungs.

Primary lung cancer starts in the lungs.
Secondary or metastatic lung cancer can start somewhere else in the body and spread to the lungs.

Less common types of lung cancers

Less common lung cancers can form in the chest area. These are called ‘thoracic cancers’.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that affects the covering of the lung, called the pleura. It’s almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.

Primary lung cancer is split into two groups:

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) – the most common type
Types of non-small cell lung cancer include:

  • Adenocarcinoma – starts in the mucus and affects the smaller airways
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – mainly affects the cells that line the tubes into the lungs. It tends to grow in the centre of the lung. It’s usually caused by smoking
  • Large cell carcinoma or undifferentiated carcinoma – cancer affecting large round cells

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) – This is less common (about 1 in 10 lung cancers). It mainly affects smokers and is very rare in people who’ve never smoked.

SCLC tends to start in the middle of the lungs and usually spreads more quickly than NSCLC.

Common lung cancer symptoms

A persistent cough that gets worse

Shortness of breath

Weight loss

Feeling very tired

Coughing up blood

Hoarse voice

Wheezing

Regular or persistent chest infections

Sometimes the symptoms of lung cancer can be mistaken for other conditions. This can delay getting a diagnosis. This means that by the time it’s caught, the cancer may already be at an advanced stage.

Treatments we cover

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Helpful resources

We understand that you may still have some unanswered questions, and we’re here to help you in any way we can. But if you are still seeking answers visit Targeting Cancer for further information about this condition or contact a staff member from a centre near you.