Feature Article

Lung cancer: what’s new in prevention, diagnosis and treatment

Samantha Ennis, Venessa Chin, EMILY STONE




Primary care practitioners have a crucial role in the prevention and early detection of lung cancer and urgent referral of patients with suspected lung cancer. Involvement of a multidisciplinary team in treatment planning is related to improved outcomes.

Key Points

  • Environmental, occupational and individual risk factors have been associated with the development of lung cancer, of which cigarette smoking is the most important.
  • Medical comorbidities such as pulmonary fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary tuberculosis are also associated with increased risk of lung cancer.
  • Currently, Australia does not have a population-based screening program and, in the absence of a coordinated approach, ad-hoc screening is discouraged.
  • If lung cancer is suspected, a CT scan of the chest is the most appropriate initial investigation, although chest x-ray may be a reasonable first investigation for less specific symptoms.
  • Treatment approaches depend on the pathological diagnosis, disease stage and performance status of the patient and include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
  • Best-practice guidelines recommend that patients with known or suspected lung cancer be referred to a specialist who works with a multidisciplinary team.