Lung Cancer

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a common form of cancer that arises in the lungs. Cancer can also spread to the lungs from other areas of the body, which is known as secondary lung cancer. There are around 38,000 new diagnoses made of lung cancer every year, it being the second most common UK cancer. There are two main kinds of lung cancer, including non small-cell lung cancer and small-cell lung cancer. Non small-cell cancer is more common, accounting for 4 out of 5 cases of lung cancer. Lung cancer is more common in males, but this is largely due to the higher percentage of men who smoke in comparison to women.

What causes lung cancer?

Smoking is often the major cause of lung cancer and increases the risk of lung cancer considerably. However, if you stop smoking your risk will decrease quite rapidly. If you stop smoking, within 15 years your risk of developing lung cancer will be roughly the same as a non-smoker. Other risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Age: lung cancer is most common among people over the age of 40, with around 80 percent of cases diagnosed in people over the age of 60
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Family history
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Previous cancer treatment (the risk is only increased very slightly)

Symptoms of lung cancer

Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • A sudden change in coughing (in a cough that you have had for a while)

Less common symptoms also include high temperature, fatigue, wheezing and hoarseness. Many of these signs are related to mild health conditions, but it is always a good idea to get checked out, especially if symptoms persist.

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

If your GP reasons that you may have lung cancer they will refer you for an urgent chest X-ray. If the X-ray suggests that you have lung cancer, your GP will relate you to a specialist for other tests. These tests will be conducted at hospital and may include a CT scan, a chest X-ray (if you have not already had one) and a bronchoscopy. The conclusion of the investigation will be essential to establishing a diagnosis.

Which treatments are available for lung cancer?

Treatments depend on the type of lung cancer. Small-cell lung cancer is usually treated using chemotherapy, while non small-cell lung cancer is often treated using surgery. If the cancer is at an advanced stage, surgery may not be possible and chemotherapy will be used.

What is the outlook for people with lung cancer?

Lung cancer is the most common cancer-related cause of death in the UK. In 2009 almost 30,000 people died from lung cancer in England and Wales. Lung cancer often remains undiagnosed until an advanced stage and as a result of this the statistics are not very positive, with only 25 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer surviving for more than 12 months after diagnosis. Early diagnosis can increase survival rates significantly.

Living with lung cancer

Coming to accept that you have lung cancer will be one of the greatest challenges of your life and can bring about many emotions. Living with cancer is a physical and emotional challenge and your care team will be there to support you. Should you require any additional details or advice, you can speak to cancer charities operating in the UK.

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