Lung Cancer

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer occurs when a normal cell changes into a cancer cell as its normal capacity to stop dividing disappears.

Usually caused by:

  • exposure to asbestos
  • exposure to radon
  • exposure to occupational substances such as uranium, chromium, nickel, diesel fumes and soot
  • family history
  • history of lung diseases such as lung fibrosis or emphysema.
  • HIV infection
  • smoking tobacco
  • second-hand smoke

There are two main types of this disease:

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) – Most common type, accounting for around 80% of cases.  Sub-types of non-small cell lung cancer include adenocarcinoma,  large cell undifferentiated carcinoma,  squamous cell (epidermoid) carcinoma.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) –  Spreads more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer and usually begins in the middle of the lungs, accounting for between 15 and 20% of cases.

Symptoms may include:

  • a new cough that does not go away
  • chest pain
  • coughing or spitting up blood
  • fatigue
  • hoarseness
  • loss of appetite
  • recurring bronchitis or pneumonia
  • shortness of breath and wheezing
  • unexplained weight loss

Management of this disease is now a multidisciplinary domain with input required from medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, thoracic surgeons, palliative care physicians and respiratory physicians.

The role of the respiratory physician is to confirm the diagnosis by a bronchoscopic biopsy or CT guided biopsy, identify the type and stage of cancer to guide treatment decisions regarding surgery vs chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and then to present each case to the Lung Cancer Multidisciplinary Meeting which is held weekly at University Hospital Geelong.

Dr Steinfort recognises that University Hospital Geelong now has a Lung Tumour Clinic and new patients suspected of having lung cancer should be referred to that clinic at the Andrew Love Centre.