79% of lung cancer cases are preventable

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Take a breath - November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Lung cancer is the third most common most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 13% of all new cancer cases.

In the UK, in just one year, some 25,000 men and 22,300 women were diagnosed with lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 21% of all cancer deaths.

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is cancer that starts in the windpipe (trachea), the main airway (bronchus) or the lung tissue.  It develops when there is uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells inside one or both lungs.  These cells grow to form tumours .  More than eight out of ten cases of lung cancer in the UK are caused by smoking.  There are two main types of lung cancer:

  • NSCLC – non-small cell lung cancer – account for 85% of all lung cancers
  • SCLC – small lung cancer – account for 10 – 15% of all lung cancers and tends to be more aggressive.

What are the risk factors?

Smoking is widely recognised as a major risk factor (86%) -  If you are a smoker,  the best thing you can do for your health is to quit! Other causes/risks include:

  • Passive smoking
  • Environment: radon, arsenic, beryllium and uranium. It can include exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace such as silica, diesel engine exhaust fumes and asbestos. This is why participating in your employer’s health surveillance programme is so important
  • Radiation
  • Diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, COPD and TB
  • A history of cancer in another part of the body or a family history of lung cancer
  • Cancer treatment for other types of cancer
  • A lowered immune system
  • Lung cancer risk increases with age.

What are the symptoms?

These symptoms could be due to lung cancer but can also be caused by other medical conditions:

  • A cough that won't go away: you may have a cough most of the time or it could be worse at different times of the day
  • A change in a cough you have had for a long time, or it might sound different
  • Being short of breath: you may get out of breath doing the things you used to do
  • Coughing up blood: this may be small amounts of blood. You may be coughing up rust coloured phlegm or it might have flecks of red in it
  • An ache or pain in the chest or shoulder: it could be a dull ache or a sharper pain
  • Loss of appetite: you may have lost your appetite or may not feel like eating foods that you normally like
  • Losing weight: you may lose a lot of weight quickly when you are not dieting
  • Feeling very tired (fatigue) a lot of the time
  • Ongoing chest infections: you may have chest infections most of the time or you might have a chest infection that doesn’t get better with treatment
  • Some types of lung cancers produce hormones that cause symptoms that don’t appear to related to lung cancer . These can include pins and needles or numbness in the fingers or toes, muscle weakness, drowsiness, weakness, dizziness and confusion, breast swelling in men and blood clots
  • Some people have clubbed fingernails (turned down at the end)
  • Pancoast tumours (a tumour that grows right at the top of the lung) can cause very specific symptoms affecting shoulder, face and eyes.

These symptoms may not be due to cancer but it's important to get them checked by a doctor. They can undertake tests and where necessary refer you for further tests and treatment. Don't delay.


Treatment depends on what type of lung cancer you have, where your cancer is, at what stage it is and your general health and level of fitness.  There are a number of different treatments available and your doctors will discuss the best treatment for you.  Treatments can include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Symptom control treatment
  • Laser therapy
  • Microwave / radiofrequency ablation
  • Diathermy.

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