Thoracic Oncology Program: Lung

Lung Cancer FAQs

Common Lung Cancer Questions

How is lung cancer detected?

Lung cancer may not cause symptoms in its early stages. Some symptoms include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing up blood
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath

These conditions may also be a sign of other diseases or other medical problems. Therefore, you should discuss your concerns with your physician. Your doctor may ask you questions about your personal medical history, including any exposure you have had to hazardous materials. Your doctor may want to examine your sputum for cancer cells. Your doctor may order a chest x-ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan in order to look for abnormal spots in your lungs. In order to confirm the presence of lung cancer, your doctor must examine a tissue sample, usually done via either bronchoscopy, mediastinoscopy, needle biopsy or VATS procedure.

What is the treatment for non-small cell lung cancer?

There are several ways to treat non-small cell lung cancer. Your physician will decide which type of treatment is best suited for you depending on the size, location, and extent of the tumor. Surgery is the most common way to treat this type of lung cancer. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may also be used for treatment and symptom management.

What is the treatment for small cell lung cancer?

Because small cell lung cancer spreads quickly, it may have already spread to other parts of the body at the time of diagnosis. Chemotherapy is usually the first therapy used to treat this type of lung cancer. Radiation therapy may also be used. Some patients receive radiation therapy to their brain even though cancer is not present there. This is called prophylactic cranial irradiation, which is given to prevent tumors from forming in the brain. Surgery may also be used for patients with this type of lung cancer.

What are the side-effects of cancer treatment?

The side-effects depend on the type of treatment received and may be different for every person. Most side-effects are only temporary. Your doctor will explain the possible side-effects of a treatment and suggest ways to help relieve your symptoms.

Since I've already been diagnosed with lung cancer, does it make any difference if I still smoke?

YES! Quitting smoking will improve your overall health. If you stop smoking, the risk of lung cancer decreases each year as abnormal cells are replaced by normal cells. Even after a diagnosis of lung cancer, smoking cessation can improve a person's breathing.