Conditions and diseases

Lung cancer

Symptoms and causes

Symptoms and causes

The lungs are the respiratory organs. In the lungs, gas exchange between air and blood takes place as part of the metabolism. Gas can be exchanged through breathing: oxygen goes to the blood and carbon dioxide (CO2) leaves. Oxygen is needed for the combustion of food; this way it releases energy for a large number of processes.

In addition, breathing removes carbon dioxide produced during the combustion of nutrients.

What is it?

There are roughly two major types of lung cancer, depending on how the cells look under the microscope: small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. The two species grow and spread in a different way and are often treated differently.

Small-cell lung cancer

Small-cell lung cancer is sometimes referred to as 'oat cell cancer' . This cancer generally grows faster than non-small cell lung cancer and can also spread more rapidly to the lymph nodes and other organs, such as the brain, liver and bones.

Non-small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer is more common than small cell cancer: about 85% of lung cancers are non-small cellular.


Most lung cancers do not cause symptoms at an early stage, so the disease is detected late, often when metastases are already present.

The following symptoms may indicate lung cancer:

  • a persistent cough
  • constant chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • hoarseness
  • bloody phlegm
  • weight loss or recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis and treatment


Treatment for lung cancer may consist of oncological surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and/or targeted therapy.

The attending physician may ask a patient to participate in scientific research (also called a clinical study or trial). For patients, participation in a study often represents an additional treatment option. In clinical trials, physicians test whether a new drug or treatment is safe and produces better results than existing treatments. However, a patient will only participate if he or she provides his or her express consent.

Treatment centres and specialisations

Treatment centres and specialisations

Latest publication date: 15/05/2024
Supervising author: Dr Lamont Jan