Rapid Access for Suspected Lung Cancer

Published/updated: 07/05/13 09:16

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Early signs of lung cancer include a new cough or phlegm which lasts for more than 3 weeks, chest pain on breathing, or coughing up blood. If you have any of these symptoms you should have a chest x-ray straight away.

Diagnosing Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the most common cancer, about 1 in 20 men and one in 30 women die of lung cancer, which is nearly always due to smoking. It can be cured if caught in time. Delay in treatment can happen when there is a delay in seeking help, a delay in early investigation or delay in hospital tests after this.

The Birmingham Chest clinic is able to perform a chest x-ray without appointment from the request of a GP. If the x-ray reveals irregularities, an automatic appointment will be made to a rapid access clinic where further explanation and tests can be organised.

About half of those with an abnormal chest x-ray turn out not to have lung cancer. This clinic appointment will be within 14 days of your chest x-ray, and will often be at short notice; it may be at the Birmingham Chest Clinic, Birmingham Heartlands or Solihull Hospital, whichever has the shortest waiting times.

When Lung Cancer is Diagnosed

The usual progress after a clinic visit is as follows:

·         You will be supported by a nurse through all stages of diagnosis who specialises in the investigation of suspected lung cancer.

·         The following Wednesday morning you will have a CT scan (a type of x-ray) at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital. You will then wait while x-ray doctors (radiologists) and lung doctors discuss the findings at 12.30. They will decide which test is most likely to find the cause of the x-ray shadow.

·         A bronchoscopy is the most usual first investigation. If this is advised it will be done the same afternoon, and you will be ready to go home at about 5pm.

·         A needle biopsy of the lung may be necessary. If this is advised it will be done a week later on a Wednesday morning.

·         It may be that lung cancer is very unlikely after the scan and that no further tests are required.

·         If this is not the case, the Friday after the bronchoscopy or needle biopsy the doctors will meet again to discuss the best treatment. You will be seen in the clinic the following week to see what treatment you would like to have.

Treatment Options

·         An operation. This is the best chance of a cure, however is only possible for early cases which are located in a suitable place.  This will be done at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

·         Chemotherapy (drug treatment). This is the best choice for one particular type of lung cancer, small cell) and may also help in many cases where an operation is not possible. This will be done at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

·         Radiotherapy. This is the best option for small cancers where an operation is not possible because of other heart or lung conditions. It can also be combined with chemotherapy. This will be done at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Edgbaston.

·         Supportive treatment, without specific anti-cancer treatment.

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