Learning that you or someone you care for has lung cancer can be a very overwhelming and frightening experience. From initial diagnosis through to cure or relapse, our Epworth care team are here to support you and your family at every step of your cancer care journey.
Each person living with lung cancer has individual needs depending on their symptoms, condition, and the stage of their cancer. Therefore, our team will proactively adjust the level of emotional and physical care provided to best suit your changing care needs and provide further options of support such as physiotherapy, dietitians, and psychologists.
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is when cancerous cells (such as tumours) begin to grow in one or both lungs in an uncontrolled way.
What are the types of lung cancer?
There are two main types of lung cancer:
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer accounting for around 85% of cases. There are three subtypes of NSCLC: adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell undifferentiated carcinoma. All three subtype cancers start in different areas of the lung.
- Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
Small cell lung cancer typically grows in the middle of the lungs, and though it is rare in comparison to non-small cell lung cancer, small cell lung cancer can spread quickly.
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
Factors that may put you at higher risk of developing lung cancer include:
- Smoking (includes second-hand smoking)
- Family history of lung cancer
- History of lung disease such as lung fibrosis or emphysema
- Older age
- Being overweight
- Exposure to asbestos
Signs and symptoms of lung cancer
If you have noticed a change to your health, book a consultation with your GP today. Catching cancer quickly can save your life.
Symptoms and signs
It's natural and common for changes to occur to your body as you age or go through stressful periods. However, we encourage you to recognise what is normal for your body and if you have persistent concerns, consult your GP for peace of mind.
Symptoms can be subtle or easily attributed to other causes but finding cancer early is crucial. Please remember that it is a myth that lung cancer only affects smokers or ex-smokers. Lung cancer can impact the lives of anyone.
Signs and symptoms of lung cancer can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
- A chest infection that does not go away or keeps coming back
- Changes to your voice such as hoarseness
- Coughing or spitting up blood
Notice changes and act quickly
Diagnosing lung cancer
Screening for lung cancer
Unfortunately, there is currently no screening test for lung cancer.
How is lung cancer diagnosed?
To investigate your health concerns, your GP, oncologist, or pulmonologist may schedule one or several of the following lung cancer diagnostic tests:
Lung function tests
During an initial consultation or check-up with your doctor, they may ask you to take a lung function test (spirometry). A lung function test is a breathing test and is an easy way of measuring the capacity and function of your lungs.
Depending on symptoms, your doctor and care team may schedule imaging tests to assess or diagnose your cancer. Each imaging test provides your care team with a different view of your body, some common scans for lung cancer include a chest X-ray or CT scan.
A biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue that will be examined under a microscope. Your doctor may request that you undergo a biopsy following a CT scan which demonstrates further investigation is needed.
Mucus from your lungs (that you cough out) will be examined under a microscope to check for abnormal cells.
Staging - Investigating the extent of the cancer
Diagnostic tests will allow your care team to establish your cancer as stage 1 to 4. Staging helps your care team and specialists to create a unique treatment plan.
What does my cancer stage mean?
The cancerous tumour is relatively small and the cancer has not yet spread to other tissue.
Cancerous tumour remains relatively localised but has spread to nearby tissue beyond its origin.
Cancer has spread regionally and affected surrounding tissue, and may have grown.
Sometimes called advanced cancer, stage 4 means cancer has spread to other tissue or organs beyond the region where it originated.
Treatment for lung cancer
We understand that treatment options can be overwhelming. Epworth oncologists and specialists are here to guide and support you to make the best choice for your health.
Lung cancer treatment at Epworth
Following a diagnosis of lung cancer, your oncologist and cancer care team will create a treatment plan tailored to the specific stage and type of cancer. Your Epworth specialist will discuss the treatment options with you and consider your circumstances and your preferences.
Below is an overview of common lung cancer treatments:
Depending on the stage of your lung cancer and where the tumours are, your care team may recommend lung cancer surgery where part of the lung is removed or an entire lung is removed.
Chemotherapy is a common form of treatment that involves the use of anti-cancer drugs to attack cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used alongside other treatments such as surgery or radiotherapy.
Immunotherapy uses specific drugs to stimulate the body’s immune system and can be used to treat some types of lung cancer.
Radiotherapy is the use of radiation to treat and manage cancer and may be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment. Radiotherapy at Epworth is supported by the latest world-class technology and evidence-based techniques, highly experienced team of radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, physicists and nurses are committed to providing compassionate and exceptional care.
Why choose Epworth for cancer care?
Epworth HealthCare is Victoria's largest not-for-profit private hospital group, renowned for excellence in diagnosis, treatment, care and rehabilitation. Epworth is an innovator in Australia’s health system, embracing the latest in evidence-based medicine to pioneer treatments and services for our patients.
Supported by excellent facilities, we integrate clinical practice with education and research to deliver outstanding patient care, each and every day.
Lung cancer rehabilitation
Who is the program for?
Rehabilitation doesn't start after your treatment has ended. You may benefit from our holistic rehabilitation programs at any time throughout your cancer journey. Our programs can support you to physically and emotionally prepare for treatment and restore your strength and wellbeing.
What does the cancer rehabilitation program involve?
Before you start
You will meet a rehabilitation doctor and allied health team for a medical, psychosocial, and physical assessment.
Everyone's cancer care journey is different. The assessments will help the team understand your specific needs to develop the right program for you. You will work with the team to develop goals to work towards throughout the program.
During the program
Depending on your assessment and individual needs, you may complete your program:
- as part of a group, with other people, who have been diagnosed with varying cancers
- on your own
Most people will attend as an outpatient, coming to hospital for a few hours once or twice a week, over several weeks. Some people may need to stay overnight in hospital and complete a program over several consecutive days.
Either way, you will receive the same support from our team to address your physical, functional and emotional needs.
Your program may include:
- A physical exercise component to help restore movement, strength and fitness
- An educational component where you will learn about different areas associated with your cancer diagnosis and treatment and how to manage them, including:
- emotional wellbeing
- body image and self-esteem
- work or family challenges
- late-onset of side effects.
At the end of your program
Our rehabilitation team will keep in touch with your referring doctor and/or treating team throughout the program and our team will keep them informed about your progress.
They will also connect you to local services and support networks so you can leave our program with the strength and confidence to live life to your fullest potential.
Who will support me during the rehabilitation program?
Depending on your needs, you may see some or all of our multidisciplinary team which includes:
- Rehabilitation specialist doctor
- Cancer nurse
- Exercise physiologist
- Social worker
- Occupational therapist
How can I access a rehabilitation program?
A referral from your specialist or GP is required to participate.
If you have any questions about our cancer rehabilitation programs, call us on: 1300 345 600.
Life after lung cancer
Life after lung cancer treatment can pose its own challenges but our Epworth specialists are here to support you.
Life after treatment
Life after lung cancer treatment can be a mixture of emotions. You may not 'bounce back' as quickly as you like, but be kind to yourself and start making plans with your family or carers.
- You may still feel fatigued for a while after finishing treatment.
- If required, make an advanced care plan.
- Ask for help. If your body has changed due to treatment, remember help is out there to support you to feel your best and regain your sense of identity and self-esteem. Speak with your care team about options to support your general wellbeing after treatment.
Epworth patients in remission for lung cancer will likely need follow-up appointments to ensure abnormal cells have not returned and to check in on your overall wellbeing.
Managing your health and wellbeing ongoing
Knowing how to best manage your wellbeing ongoing is an essential step toward recovery. We encourage people who have been living with lung cancer to reach out to groups such as Lung Foundation Australia for ongoing support services.
Palliative care may be discussed with you and your family in some cases. Epworth palliative care aims to relieve you of symptoms and manage pain.