This lung cancer section on our website takes you through your lung cancer pathway within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and provides you with the information and support you will need.

If you or someone you care for has just been diagnosed with lung cancer, then almost certainly you will have many questions. Therefore it is important that you understand the type of lung cancer, what your options are and the impact this diagnosis can have on your life.

This section explains what lung cancer is and provides information including signs and symptoms, relevant investigations and procedures, the type of treatment available and how to live well with lung cancer.

Diagram showing lungs with all parts labelled

Types of lung cancer

There are two main types of primary lung cancer, small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which behave and respond to treatment differently.

The two main types of lung cancer are:

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) – accounts for around 12% (12 out of 100) of lung cancer cases in the UK. It is made up of small round cells and usually starts in the larger airways.       These cells reproduce and grow quickly however it is generally more responsive to chemotherapy.
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) – accounts for around 87 out of 100 (87%) lung cancers in the UK. NSCLC are subdivided into three main types:
    • Squamous cell cancer –is often found near the centre of the lung in one of the main airways (left or right bronchus).
    • Adenocarcinoma – more often seen in the outer parts of the lung. This cancer can produce excess mucus (fluid) in the lungs leading to a chronic cough
    • Large cell carcinoma – generally more aggressive and often arises in the larger air passages. It tends to spread outside the lung at an earlier stage.

Rarer types of lung cancer

There are a number of other rare types of cancer that can occur in the lungs:

  • Mesothelioma – most commonly starts in the layers of tissue that cover each lung (the pleura) and is closely associated with asbestos exposure
  • Carcinoid tumours – this is a rare tumour where the cancer develops from a special type of cells in the lung called neuroendocrine cells – sometimes this cancer is called a neuroendocrine tumour
  • Pancoast tumours – this is a rare tumour that grows at the top of the lung – fewer than 5 in every 100 cases of lung cancer (5%)

Referral

If your GP thinks you have symptoms that could be caused by lung cancer, they will refer you to a respiratory consultant for a chest x-ray. There is a rapid access clinic in the Trust, where your GP can make an urgent referral to the respiratory consultant.

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