Commonly asked questions about lung cancer: Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK, with more than 43,000 people diagnosed every year1. Smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer with 70% of cases in the UK caused by smoking2, however you can still develop it if you’re a non-smoker and this is why it is important that everyone is aware of the signs and symptoms.
Dr Brian O’Connor, Respiratory Consultant at Cromwell Hospital, who have just launched their new lung health check, answers the most commonly asked questions about lung cancer:
What is lung cancer?
There are two main types of lung cancer, primary and secondary. Primary lung cancer starts in the lungs and there are different types of primary lung cancer, the most common being non-small cell lung cancer.
Secondary lung cancer starts in another place in the body but spreads to the lungs.
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Many people with lung cancer have no symptoms at first, or sometimes the early symptoms can be slight, such as a cough or feeling a bit out of breath. Other signs to watch out for include feeling exhausted more than usual, experiencing pain in your chest, unexplained weight loss and a loss of appetite.
If you’re coughing up blood, have a persistent cough or are short of breath, see your GP as soon as possible, especially if you’re over 40.
How do I know if I’m at risk of lung cancer?
Smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer although you can also develop lung cancer if you’ve never smoked. Your risk of lung cancer is related to how much you smoke, how long you’ve been smoking and when you started smoking. It also depends on which type of cigarettes you smoke.
You’re at a higher risk of developing lung cancer if you regularly breathe in other people’s tobacco smoke (passive smoking), so it’s best to keep the environment around you smoke free.
Whilst it’s far more common in older adults (often 65 and older), it is still possible to develop lung cancer at a younger age. This common misconception could mean young people are less likely to be screened or seek medical help for symptoms.
How do I check myself for lung cancer?
As there are often no symptoms of lung cancer it can be hard to check yourself, as you would with other cancers such as breast and skin. It’s important to be aware of the signs, especially if you are a smoker or have smoked in the past, coughing up blood, have a persistent cough or are short of breath are the key ones to see your GP about as soon as possible.
How is lung cancer treated?
Treatment for lung cancer depends on the stage and type of lung cancer you have, how far it has spread and your overall health.
As with all cancers, if diagnosed early it can make a difference on the type of treatment you have and outcomes following treatment. When diagnosed early and cancerous cells are confined to a small area, surgery may be used as the best treatment to remove the affected area of the lung.
Radiotherapy can also be used to destroy the cancerous cells, this is favoured if your overall health means that surgery is an unsuitable option.
If the cancer has spread around the body to make surgery or radiotherapy effective, then chemotherapy is used.
Tell us about the new lung health check at Cromwell Hospital?
At Cromwell Hospital, we’ve just launched our new lung health check where customers will undergo a wide range of diagnostic tests to review their lung health.
After the diagnostic tests, their results will be reviewed by a multidisciplinary panel of experts, including thoracic radiologists and lung oncologists who, if required, will design a personalised treatment plan expertly tailored to their needs and symptoms.
If they are diagnosed with lung cancer, they will be referred on to our specialist lung cancer teams for treatment.
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