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Alex Chapman - Respiratory Physician

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Lung Cancer

This is when abnormal malignant cells divide and grow in an uncontrolled fashion in the lung tissue. The effect of this is to destroy normal lung tissue and block off the breathing tubes. There are several types of lung cancer.  The most common cause is cigarette smoke; however exposure to asbestos, marijuana smoke and a number of other chemicals can also increase your risk of developing cancer.
 
Common signs and symptoms
·        a cough that gets worse with time
·        coughing up blood
·        chest pain
·        loss of appetite and weight
·        tiredness
·        repeated doses of, or not improving, bronchitis or pneumonia.
 
Diagnosis
To diagnose lung cancer your doctor will look at your medical and smoking history. You will also have a physical examination. This is usually followed by a number of tests.  The aim of the tests is to confirm the diagnosis and find out what type of cancer it is which usually involves obtaining some cells to look at under the microscope. Test you are likely to have include:
·        chest X-ray. This is the first test that may raise the question of a lung cancer.  It is usually followed by other tests to confirm the diagnosis
·        CT scans with or without fine needle aspirate (see below)
·        bronchoscopy  (see below).
 
Treatment
Once lung cancer is diagnosed, a process known as staging determines the extent of the disease. Knowing the type and stage of cancer means the doctor can plan your treatment.
Different treatment options include:
·        surgery.  The type of surgery depends on the size and type of cancer
·        radiotherapy is a form of high energy radiation (X-ray) that kills cancer cells
·        chemotherapy is the use of drugs aimed at killing cancer cells.
The aim of treatment is to keep the person as well as possible even if the cancer cannot be cured.
If you have a lung cancer there will be ongoing follow up with specialists and nurses throughout treatment and afterwards.
For more information about lung cancer see www.cancernz.org.nz

This page was last updated at 10:48AM on February 5, 2020.