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Lung cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for 85% of known cases.
  • Small cell lung cancer accounts for 15% of cases.  It spreads more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer.

Have I got any signs of lung cancer?

  • shortness of breath
  • changes to the voice such as hoarseness
  • chest pain
  • coughing or spitting up blood
  • a new cough that does not go away
  • recurring bronchitis or pneumonia
  • enlarged fingertips
  • loss of appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • tiredness.

Am I at risk?

Factors that can increase your risk of lung cancer include:

  • smoking tobacco
  • second-hand (passive) smoking
  • exposure to asbestos
  • exposure to radon (radioactive gas)
  • exposure to occupational substances such as arsenic, cadmium, nickel, diesel fumes and soot
  • HIV infection
  • family history
  • history of lung diseases such as lung fibrosis or emphysema
  • older age.

How will I get tested?

There is no routine screening for lung cancer in Australia.

If you have any signs or concerns visit your GP who may ask for:

  • Blood test
  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • Lung function test
  • Biopsy
  • Sputum cytology
  • Bronchoscopy

My results are positive...what happens next?

Your GP will refer you to a specialist service.

Treatment will depend on the type of lung cancer you have, how advanced it is and your general health.

  • Surgery
  • Staging
  • Radiation therapy
  • Ablation – heat or radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy or targeted therapies
  • Supportive management
Last updated: 3 June 2021