About Lung Cancer

The lungs are a pair of sponge like organs, part of the respiratory system essential for breathing, which brings oxygen into the body and gets rid of carbon dioxide. Oxygen is necessary for cells to make energy. A by-product of this process is carbon dioxide, which needs to be removed from the body. The critical oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange takes place in the lungs.

During breathing, air exits the mouth or nasal passages and travels down the main breathing tube called the trachea (windpipe) which divides into two main tubes (main stem bronchi). One division goes to the right lung (right main stem bronchi) and the other to the left (left main stem bronchi). There is further division eventually resulting in segments called alveoli.

Each lung is divided into sections called lobes. The right lung has three lobes; however the left lung has only two (to allow room for the heart). The lining around the lungs, called the pleura helps protect the lungs and allows them to move during breathing. Most lung cancers start in the cells of the lining.

Cancer is a general term that describes the state in which cells divide uncontrollably. Normally, cells grow, divide, and produce more cells to keep the body functioning properly. Abnormal cells can accumulate and form growths or masses called tumors. Tumors can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancer) and can invade and destroy normal tissue. The spread of cancer cells throughout the body from the original tumor site to a new site is termed metastasis.

Lung cancer can often go undetected anywhere from three to five years. The initial changes in the body are often too microscopic for early detection and are often asymptomatic. This disease is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia.

About Lung Cancer


Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer. Lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined.

  • Lung cancer is one of the least funded of all cancer’s.
  • The median for lung cancer is 8 – 12 months.
  • Only 15% of people live more than 5 years.
  • Australia is the least sympathetic country when it comes to lung cancer (most Australians think you must of smoked so it is your own fault.)
  • Most people don’t know they have lung cancer until it’s too late and considered incurable.
  • People with stage IV lung cancer are only given a 1% 5 year survival rate.
  • Lungs don’t have nerves so the cancer itself doesn’t cause pain.
  • Most cancer’s survival rates has have improved incredibly over the last 40 years where as lung cancer has remained the same.
  • There is no standard early detection screening test for lung cancer.
  • More than 7,000 Australians die of lung cancer annually (more than breast, prostate and bowel cancer combined) = almost 20 deaths per day.
  • 50% of the 8,000 lung cancer patients diagnosed each year have either never smoked or are non-smokers who have long since kicked the habit.
  • Only 50% of patients suffering from lung cancer get treatment each year.


Research Funding

Cancer Research Funding

While lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of men and women, research funding to find a cure of this disease is seriously underfunded.

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main categories of lung cancer: non small cell (NSCLC) and small cell (SCLC).
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
Makes up 75-80% of lung cancers. It mainly affects the cells that line the tubes into the lungs (bronchi) and smaller airways. NSCLC is classified as:


  • A cancer that involves the cells lining the walls of many different organs of the body. It starts in glandular tissue or has a gland-like appearance
  • is most common lung cancer among women
  • usually starts near outer edges of the lungs
  • may spread to other parts of the body
  • can be seen in non-smokers
  • includes sub-types such as BAC – bronchioalveolar adenocarcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • A cancer found most commonly on skin, but also in inner linings of the body, for example, a lung occurs most frequently in men and older people of both genders
  • usually begins in one of the breathing tubes tends to remain localized chest longer than the other types

Large Cell Undifferentiated carcinoma

  • represents about 5-15% of lung cancer cases in U.S.
  • incidence appears to be decreasing
  • may occur in any part of the lung
  • tumor usually rather large by time of diagnosis
  • greatest possibility of metastasis to brain and mediastinum


Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)  – also called “oat cell” because of its appearance – is a more aggressive type of lung cancer compared to NSCLC

  • Makes up 15-20% of lung cancers. SCLC tends to start in the middle of the lungs, and it usually spreads early
  • Spreads to lymph nodes and other organs more frequently than NSCLC
  • Diagnosed primarily in smoker or former smoker
  • Usually starts in one of the larger breathing tubes
  • is seemingly more responsive to chemotherapy drugs
  • tends to grow rapidly


A rare type of cancer that affects the protective membrane around the body’s internal organs (the mesothelium). Mesothelioma usually affects the pleural membranes around the lungs, but it can also occur in the lining of the abdomen or around the heart.

Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral used in some building materials. In most cases, the development of mesothelioma occurs 25-50 years after asbestos exposure.

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