Lung cancer

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the Northern Territory. 

The earlier lung cancer is found, the better survival is likely to be.

The best way to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking.

Symptoms

You should go to a doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • weight loss
  • weakness or fatigue, particularly if you are a smoker or ex-smoker
  • persistent cough or coughing up blood
  • pneumonia that won't go away
  • explained bone pain or chest wall pain.

Early detection tests

There are no screening programs for lung cancer.

Your doctor will conduct tests such as an x-ray or CT scan of your chest and/or sputum test if you are coughing up blood. 

If they suspect you have lung cancer they will refer you to a surgeon or physician at the Royal Darwin Hospital or Alice Springs Hospital.

Diagnostic tests 

Your surgeon or physician will do more tests and examine you to find out what stage the cancer is at. 

You may have travel interstate if you need a PET scan.

Deciding on your treatment 

Your surgeon will first discuss your treatment with other specialists and then discuss your treatment options with you.

If you live in the Top End

Your case will be discussed with other specialist doctors at the Royal Darwin Hospital.

If you live in Central Australia

The local surgeon or local physician with a respiratory interest will assess your case and refer you to the visiting oncologist/radiotherapist if appropriate. 

This can be via telehealth if necessary.

Treatment

Your treatment will depend on the stage your cancer is at.

It will include one or more of the following:

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy.

Surgery

You may have surgery to remove the cancer. This benefits patients who have localised disease. Surgery may also diagnose your cancer.

Your surgery will either be at Royal Darwin Hospital or Alice Springs Hospital. 

Radiotherapy

You may have radiotherapy after surgery or to manage pain, bleeding or obstruction.

The length of treatment is six weeks. Consolidation radiotherapy to the lungs is three weeks. 

Your radiotherapy treatment will be at the Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre in Darwin.

You may be eligible for help with accommodation and travel costs through the Patient Assistance Travel Scheme.

Chemotherapy

This may be recommended if you have advanced cancer if you have a tumour that is localised but can't be operated on.

The length of treatment is between three and six months.

Your treatment will be at the Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre in Darwin, at the Alice Springs Hospital or you may need to travel interstate.

Resources on lung cancer

For more information, read cancer journeys - lung cancer.

The Cancer Council website has information to help you quit smoking, and about the investigations, diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

Last updated: 28 November 2017