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Clinical Specialties - Cancer

Lung Cancer

San MDTLung cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers and can occur in either or both of the lungs.  It can also develop in the bronchi or air tubes leading to the lungs.

Lung MDTThe lung cancer experts at Sydney Adventist Hospital use several methods to confirm your diagnosis and determine the stage of your disease. They have experience with early-stage as well as complex cancer; have access to advanced diagnostic tools and a wide range of treatments, including clinical trials. At the same time, our supportive care clinicians help you manage side effects to support your quality of life. Explore this section to learn more about lung cancer, its side effects and your treatment options.

About Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). NCSCLC accounts for nearly nine out of every 10 cases and typically grows at a slower rate than SCLC.

SCLC tends to be more aggressive and spread more rapidly than NSCLC. Treatment options vary, depending on which type of lung cancer you have.

According to the Cancer Council of Australia, about 11,000 Australians are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. The average age at diagnosis is 71. It is the fifth most common cancer in Australia and accounts for close to 9% of all cancers diagnosed.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Sometimes symptoms of lung cancer may not be easy to recognise.  Often the first sign of the disease is an abnormal spot that appears on a chest x-ray or a CT scan taken for another medical condition.

Some of the symptoms you may experience include:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing up phlegm, mucus, or blood
  • Fatigue

It is important to remember that these symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you are concerned, consult with your general practitioner (GP).

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

If you think you may have lung cancer, your doctor can order a number of tests to look for cancerous cells and to rule out other conditions.

Tests may include:

  • Imaging tests. An X-ray image of your lungs may reveal an abnormal mass or nodule. A CT scan can reveal small lesions in your lungs that might not be detected on an X-ray.
  • Sputum cytology. If you have a cough and are producing sputum, looking at the sputum under the microscope can sometimes reveal the presence of lung cancer cells.
  • Tissue sample (biopsy). A sample of abnormal cells may be removed in a procedure called a biopsy and then examined under a microscope.

Careful analysis of your cancer cells in a lab will reveal what type of lung cancer you have. Once a diagnosis has been made, your integrated team of lung cancer experts will use these test results to determine the stage or extent of the cancer which will largely influence the recommended treatment approach.

What are my treatment options for lung cancer?

You and your doctor will discuss a cancer treatment plan based on a number of factors including your overall health, the type and stage of your cancer, and your personal preferences.

Based on your preferences, your treatment plan could include any or some of the following:

  • Surgery to remove the lung cancer.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams from sources such as X-rays and protons to kill cancer cells. 
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Radiosurgery is an intense radiation treatment that aims many beams of radiation from many angles at the cancer. 
  • Drug therapy focuses on specific abnormalities present within cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy uses your immune system to fight cancer.
  • Palliative care involves working with a doctor to minimise your signs and symptoms.

If you have lung cancer, our multidisciplinary team of specialists will discuss your cancer and develop a treatment plan that is best for you.  Discuss your plan with your doctor and ask about what resources are available to you after treatment, such as rehabilitation and other support services.

Resources and lung cancer links
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Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical Specialties and Services