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HealthInfo Canterbury

Lung cancer

This page has links to information in Māori.


Lung cancer is a type of cancer that forms inside your lungs. Like all organs, your lungs are made of cells. Sometimes something goes wrong with the cells and they multiply uncontrollably. This is called cancer.

Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in New Zealand. About 2,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with lung cancer each year.

By far the most lung cancer cases are caused by cigarette smoking. The best way to reduce the number of people getting lung cancer is to reduce the number of people who smoke.

Some people who develop lung cancer have not smoked. They may have worked with asbestos, nickel or chromium, or may have been exposed to second-hand smoke.

Symptoms of lung cancer

  • A cough that lasts longer than a few weeks.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Chest or shoulder pain.
  • Unintentional weight loss.


If you have any of the above symptoms or you are worried you might have lung cancer, speak to your doctor, who can help you and arrange further tests if necessary.

Not all lung cancers are the same. Some types are more serious than others or more likely to get worse. They may also need different types of treatment.

Types of lung cancer

There are several types of lung cancer, the main ones are:

Tests for lung cancer

If your doctor thinks you might have lung cancer, they will order some tests.

These may include:

They may also refer you to a respiratory physician, a specialist who is an expert in lung problems. Further tests with the respiratory physician may include:

Treating lung cancer

There are several treatments for lung cancer including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. Unfortunately, most lung cancer can't be cured, but you can be given treatment aimed at reducing the growth of the cancer or easing symptoms. Treatment aimed at easing symptoms is called palliative care.

Your treatment will depend on:

This Cancer Society page has more information about lung cancer treatments.

Preventing lung cancer

The best way to prevent getting lung cancer is not to smoke. If you do smoke, there are many ways to quit. If you would like to know more about quitting smoking talk to your doctor or see How to become smokefree.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by community respiratory physician, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed March 2018.

See also:


How to become smokefree


Page reference: 282689

Review key: HILUC-282689