Condition: Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. Around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK.

To book offline, call our Lung Specialist London centre directly on: 02036532006


What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide. It affects the two sponge-like organs (lungs) in your chest that drive your respiratory system. The condition typically starts in the trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, alveoli or lung tissue.

There are 2 main types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Other types of lung cancer include lung carcinoid tumours, adenoid cystic carcinomas, lymphomas, and sarcomas, as well as cancers that have started in other areas of the body and have spread (metastasised) to the lungs.

What causes lung cancer?

More than 8 out of 10 lung cancer cases are caused by smoking, making it the leading risk factor for developing the disease. Exposure to second-hand smoke can also cause lung cancer.

Other risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Exposure to chemicals including asbestos, diesel engine exhaust fumes, silica, arsenic and radon gas

  • High levels of air pollution

  • A family history of lung cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child)

  • Having had treatment for cancer in the past, particularly radiotherapy to your chest

  • Having a history of lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)

  • Having a lowered immune system due to a condition such as HIV or AIDS or if you are taking immunosuppressant drugs

  • Getting older – lung cancer is more common in older age with 44% of people diagnosed being 75 and over

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Lung cancer often doesn’t have any symptoms which makes it difficult to spot in its early stages.

Any symptoms that are present can vary depending on how advanced the cancer is and where it is in your lungs. Symptoms can also overlap with other lung conditions so it’s important to seek a diagnosis as soon as you notice anything unusual.

The main symptoms to look out for that could indicate you have lung cancer are:

  • Loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss

  • Unexplained fatigue and weakness

  • A persistent cough (more than 3 weeks)

  • Persistent breathlessness or shortness of breath

  • Headaches

  • Coughing up blood

  • Aches or pains in your chest when breathing or coughing

  • Persistent chest infections that don’t respond to medications

Other symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

  • Hoarseness

  • Finger clubbing

  • Swelling in your face and neck

  • Persistent pain in your chest and/or shoulder

  • Pain and swelling in your joints

  • Bone pain

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

If you’re worried about any of the symptoms mentioned above, especially if you are or have been a smoker, make an appointment to get checked out as soon as you can.

It’s important to try to discover and diagnose lung cancer early to have the best chance of being able to treat it successfully. Even if the diagnosis comes late there are often still treatment options available and increasingly there are newer therapies becoming available that can significantly improve prognosis.

The diagnostic process may involve a variety of different tests. At OneWelbeck our consultants aim to make the process as smooth as possible for you.

Usually, the first step would be to meet your respiratory consultant and discuss your case. The lung cancer screening programme at OneWelbeck involves a triage to ensure that you are an appropriate candidate for screening. You can learn more about lung cancer screening here.

The starting point for most pathways will be a CT scan of your chest. A biopsy (small sample of tissue) is then required to confirm that cancer is present.

At OneWelbeck we perform CT-guided biopsies and endoscopic biopsies. You can read more about these on EBUS and bronchoscopy pages.

As well as confirming a diagnosis of lung cancer, the biopsy will indicate which type of cancer is present and how advanced it is. This will help inform your treatment plan so that we can provide you with the most effective treatments available.

At OneWelbeck, we pride ourselves on working as a multidisciplinary team (MDT). By sharing our expertise we ensure that if you are diagnosed with lung cancer you have access to the best possible care for you.

What are the treatment options for lung cancer?

The best treatment for you depends on the type and stage of the cancer as well as your general health.

Generally, treatment for lung cancer can include one or a combination of the following; surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, or immunotherapy.

Before you start treatment, your consultant will take you through the treatment you’ll need and explain any side effects.

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Lung Cancer Specialists

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