Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health: Medical notes
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Medical notes 
Background Briefings 
Education 
Sport 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 16:08 GMT
Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the commonest cancer in the world. In the UK, it is the most frequently occurring cancer, accounting for 1 in 7 new cases. The risk of lung cancer increases with age. It is uncommon in people under 40. Recently, there has been a decrease in the incidence in men, but lung cancer is still rising in women.

Symptoms

  • shortness of breath
  • drop in ability to exercise
  • persistent chest paint
  • persistent cough or coughing up blood
  • loss of appetite, weight loss and general fatigue

At present there is no effective screening test for lung cancer.

If you are worried that you have lung cancer, your doctor may order a chest X-ray.

In many cases, this will be followed by a bronchoscopy or mediastinoscopy, which means that a thin flexible telescope is gently put down the airways of your lungs, after which a biopsy of any suspicious area is performed.

Risk

Most lung cancer cases, perhaps as many as nine out of ten, are caused by smoking cigarettes.

Even passive smoking can cause a problem, and the longer period over which the patient smokes, the higher the risks.

Breathing in other carcinogens in the workplace, for example asbestos, can also trigger cancer.

Treatments

Treatment depends on the type of lung cancer and the state or extent of the disease.

There are two types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). NSCLC If the tumour is located in the outside part of the lung, away from the centre, and if it has not spread, it may be possible to remove it by surgery.

However, overall less than a fifth of all NSCLC patients are suitable for surgery. Radiotherapy is the other major method of treatment.

Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop their growth.

Research is currently underway to find out if anti-cancer drugs (chemotherapy) might be used in the future. SCLC is different from NSCLC. In particular, it has a tendency to spread to distant parts of the body at a relatively early stage.

As a result, small-cell lung cancers are generally less likely to be cured by surgery.

Chemotherapy is the main type of treatment and sometimes radiotherapy is used as well.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to almost every part of the body.

Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles; a treatment period followed by a rest period and so on.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
Medical notes Contents

A-B
C-D
E-F
G-I
N-P
Q-S
T-Z
J-M
Links to other Medical notes stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend