Lung Cancer

Like all other types of cancer, Lung cancer develops as a result of an abnormality in the body's cells. Tumours can be malignant or benign, but we refer to the malignant tumours when we speak of cancer. Tumours in the lung can be primary or secondary. In cases where the tumour is primary, these tumours can grow aggressively and may spread or metastasise through the lymphatic system to other parts of the body, such as the liver or brain. In other cases, the lung tumour may be secondary as the lung is also a common site for metastasis.

What increases my risk of developing lung cancer?

Cells turn cancerous due to exposure to various environmental factors. Smokers have the most significant risk of developing lung cancer. These odds increase depending on the length of time and number of cigarettes one has smoked, including those who are passive smokers or inhale second-hand smoke. Your risk for developing lung cancer increases if you have a history of lung cancer in the family or are exposed to air pollUTIon, diesel exhaust, asbestos fibres and radon gas. In addition, lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis appear to increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

What are the signs or symptoms of lung cancer?

While lung cancer does not typically cause signs and symptoms during the early stages of the disease, it is essential to have regular check-ups with your physician and be wary of the following symptoms:

  • A persistent cough
  • Worsening of an existing cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • A hoarse voice
  • Recurring headaches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Recurrent respiratory infections

How is lung cancer diagnosed and treated?

If you suspect any respiratory condition or lung disease, it is important to see Dr Mothilal. Your lung specialist can then do a range of tests to diagnose your condition and identify any cancerous tumour early. For diagnosis, he may suggest X-ray and CT scan imaging as well as bronchoscopy and an endobronchial ultrasound to identify suspicious growths. During the bronchoscopy, a tissue sample may be taken for testing. In addition, if you have a cough and are producing sputum, the sputum may also be examined under a microscope.

The treatment of lung cancer, or any cancer for that matter, requires a multidisciplinary team of specialists such as an oncologist, radiation therapist, general surgeon and of course, your lung specialist in providing care specific to your specific case.

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Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital

Suite 1613, 16th floor, Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, Cnr DF Malan Street and Rua Bartholemeu Dias Plain, Foreshore, Cape Town, 8001