About Lung Cancer

Lungs are spongy organs located in the chest that help us breathe. Lung cancer begins when the cells in the lungs start to divide uncontrollably, giving rise to tumours. It is a leading cause of death worldwide and is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK. Lung cancer treatment options depend upon the type of cancer– small cell or non-small cell, as both are treated differently. Lung cancer can originate anywhere in the lungs and can spread to the entire lung, opposite lung, and other parts of the body if not treated in time. Though people who smoke or have a history of smoking are at high risk of developing lung cancer, non-smokers can develop lung cancer too. The five-year survival rate or lung cancer life expectancy after five years of diagnosis for localised cases is 63% and 35% for cancers that have spread in the nearby region.

Symptoms

You may not notice any symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer. When symptoms develop, they may include:

  • Breathlessness.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Hoarseness of voice.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Fatigue or tiredness.
  • A persistent cough that worsens with time.
  • Bone pain.
  • Headache.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.

Diagnosis

After evaluating your medical and family history and presenting symptoms, your doctor may recommend the following tests to diagnose lung cancer: 

  • Chest x-ray: The x-ray gives a clear picture of the lungs and helps detect lung cancer and its spread.
  • Imaging tests like CT scan or MRI: CT scan and MRI provide information about the spread of lung cancer outside the lungs.
  • Bronchoscopy: A bronchoscope is used to navigate through the breathing tubes (bronchi) to detect any abnormal growths in them.
  • Ultrasound: Different chest ultrasounds may be advised to better view the lungs from within and detect any abnormal growths.
  • Biopsy (through the skin or surgical): If your doctor detects any abnormal growths in any of the tests mentioned above, they may perform a biopsy – either through the skin or surgically, to confirm their diagnosis of lung cancer. The sample collected is also sent for staging and grading.
  • PET scan: A PET scan provides the exact location of the tumour in your lung and its spread in other parts of the body.
  • Bone scan: If your doctor suspects your cancer has spread, especially in the case of stage 3 or stage 4 lung cancer, they may perform a bone scan to determine if cancer has spread to the bone.

 

Additional diagnostic tests that may be recommended include a mediastinoscopy (helps detect lunch cancer spread around the windpipe), abdominal ultrasound to see the extent of cancer spread, testing for gene mutations.

All the diagnostic test results give your doctor and your team a comprehensive view of the type, stage and extent of your cancer, which will guide them on how to treat lung cancer.

Treatment

After understanding the profile of your lung cancer, your doctor will chart out a treatment plan for you. Lung cancer treatment options include:

  • Surgery.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Targeted therapy.
  • Immunotherapy.

 

The type of treatment chosen for you will depend on multiple parameters, primarily your lung cancer type. Most people associate chemotherapy and lung cancer side effects, but it is important to remember that each type of cancer treatment has its pros and cons. Speak to your doctor about any queries about your lung cancer treatment options.

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