Make sure you know the signs of lung cancer

November is Lung Cancer Awareness month, which encourages people displaying the common symptoms of lung cancer, such as a persistent cough, breathlessness or unexplained weight-loss, to visit their GP.

Over 46,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, with nearly 36,000 dying from it.  It is the UK’s biggest cancer killer in both men and women. However, early detection is important in terms of having a higher likelihood of detecting a disease at a very early stage and potentially curable by treatment/surgery. That means ensuring people know all about the symptoms of lung cancer to help with early diagnosis as well as making sure those who have already been diagnosed have the support they need.

Lung Cancer Month is being run by the Roy Castle Foundation and supported by leading cancer charities, including Macmillan. 

The month also aims to confront the stigma many people with lung cancer encounter, as anyone can get cancer, head on with its #headhigh campaign.

What is lung cancer?

There are two main types of lung cancer – non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type and small cell lung cancer makes up roughly 10% of lung cancers. 

Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of non-small cell lung cancer with the other two being squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma. Adenocarcinoma develops in cells that produce mucus, squamous cell carcinoma is usually caused by smoking and occurs in the cells that line the airways. 

The cells in large cell carcinoma look bigger when the cancer cells look when looked at under a microscope. Small cell lung cancer meanwhile has smaller cells under the microscope and is typically caused by smoking. Small cell lung cancer can spread quickly if not caught early enough. Other types of lung cancer include mesothelioma and the rarer carcinoid cancer.

Lung cancer symptoms include having: 

  1. a persistant cough for more than three weeks 
  2. a change in a cough if you’ve had one a while 
  3. repeat chest infections or one that doesn’t get better 
  4. a wheezy or breathless feeling 
  5. blood when you cough 
  6. constant pain in your chest or shoulder 
  7. a hoarse voice for several weeks 

Other symptoms include any unexpected weight loss, fatigue, any change in the shape of your fingers. 
Source: MacMillan Cancer Support


Lung cancer signs? Book GP appointment

Anyone with the symptoms of lung cancer should book an appointment with their GP. 

If the doctor suspects lung cancer they are likely to refer you to a specialist for testing. 

Testing is likely to include a chest x-ray to spot anything unusual. Other types of testing include a CT scan, bronchoscopy, lung biopsy, and fine needle aspiration. A fine needle aspiration is a test where a sample of cells is taken from lymph nodes the neck. 

A lung biopsy is when a needle is inserted through the skin to take a sample of cells from the lung. A bronchoscopy is when medical professionals examine inside the lungs under a local anaesthetic– with a sample of cells being taken.

If lung cancer is diagnosed there are a number of treatments. These include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, biological therapies and tumour ablation. 

More information on cancer treatments can be found on the Macmillan website:

For further information about Lung Awareness Month visit: