Lung cancer (also called bronchial carcinoma or lung carcinoma) is the second most common type of cancer among men and the third most common among women. It causes more deaths every year than any other type of cancer. Lung cancer usually develops from cells in the bronchial mucous membrane.
- Distinguishing types of lung cancer
- Causes of lung cancer
- First signs and symptoms
- Treatment and chances of recovery
Distinguishing types of lung cancer
Depending on what the cancer cells look like under the microscope, the disease is either classified as small cell bronchial carcinoma or non-small cell bronchial carcinoma. Non-small cell bronchial carcinoma accounts for some 85% cases of lung cancer. The chances of recovery with non-small cell lung cancer are frequently better.
Causes of lung cancer
Smoking and passive smoking are by far the biggest risk factors for lung cancer. Other known factors include radon, a radioactive noble gas that naturally occurs underground and is inhaled, as well as air pollution, e.g. fine dust and soot particles.
First signs and symptoms
In its early stages, lung cancer often causes very few symptoms. This means that many tumours are only discovered during routine check-ups or when the cancer has already reached an advanced stage.
Ongoing problems with the respiratory tract (longer than four weeks) are a warning sign and should always be checked by a doctor. They include coughing, phlegm, respiratory distress, hoarseness and chest pain.
If you are coughing up blood or blood-stained phlegm, you should see a doctor immediately. More general symptoms such as tiredness, weight loss and a lack of energy can also point to lung cancer.
Bronchial carcinoma is often discovered by chance as the symptoms were not identified earlier. Similar symptoms can also occur in the case of less serious diseases.
Lung cancer is initially diagnosed by taking an x-ray of the lungs. If this reveals any suspicious changes, further examinations (e.g. bronchoscopy) and medical imaging procedures (e.g. computed tomography (CT)), are carried out.
During a bronchoscopy, tissue samples are taken for subsequent analysis. Computed tomography provides a three-dimensional view inside the lungs. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also used to diagnose the presence of metastases.
Treatment and chances of recovery
The treatment of lung cancer depends on the type of cancer and its stage of development. If it is possible to surgically remove the tumour, the main form of treatment will be an operation. The decision to operate greatly depends on the location of the tumour and the patient’s general state of health.
Surgery is often possible with non-small cell bronchial carcinoma, while small cell carcinoma has usually already formed metastases by the time it is discovered. This is why chemotherapy and radiotherapy are normally used to treat this type of tumour. One other common approach is to combine further types of treatment.
Despite advances in treating lung cancer with new medications, palliative care is often the only treatment option if the disease is already in its late stages.
Centre for lung diseasesSchänzlistrasse 39
3013 BernF +41 31 337 80 51e-mail
Clinic for Hematology & Oncology Hirslanden ZurichWitellikerstrasse 40 8032 ZürichF +41 44 387 22 75e-mail
Lung CentreSchanzweg 7
Lung Centre St. AnnaSt. Anna-Strasse 32
6006 LuzernF +41 41 208 37 77e-mail
Oncological and Haematology CentreHirslanden Clinique des Grangettes
Route de chêne 110
Pneumology Centre HirslandenWitellikerstrasse 36 8032 ZurichF +41 44 387 22 55e-mail
Pneumology Centre Im ParkKappelistrasse 7
8002 ZürichF +41 44 283 90 31e-mail
Tumor centre BernMonbijoustrasse 10