Understanding lung cancer

Lung cancer is a malignant tumour (cancer) that happens in the tissue of one or both lungs. We use our lungs to:

  • Breathe in air that is then passed into our bloodstream
  • Breathe out (exhale) the waste gas called carbon dioxide that needs to leave our body.

The lungs are like two sponges inside your chest, one on the left and one on the right. Lung cancers happen when cells in the lung tissue or lining grow abnormally and multiply, turning into a tumour. A cancer that starts in the cells lining an organ is called a ‘carcinoma’.

There are two main groups of lung cancers and each group stands for the type of cell(s) that make up the tumour. The two groups of lung cancers have different types of linked carcinomas (diseases). The two main groups are:

  • Non-small cell carcinomas – that make up about 16 out of every 20 lung cancers.
  • Small cell carcinomas - that make up three out of every 20 lung cancers.

Focusing on you

Placing you at the centre of our work, your specialist will determine where you cancer started (what type of cell) and if it has spread.

Lung cancers can happen in any area of the lungs but the most common usually start in the lining of the airway.

There are different types of lung cancers and related diseases and we treat each one differently. Your treatment will depend on:

  • the type of lung cancer or disease (what cell it started in)
  • if it has spread and how far
  • how well your lungs are working
  • your general health and wellbeing
  • your personal needs.

Enhancing your care

At Peter Mac, we provide the most up-to-date diagnostics (tests) and treatment for lung cancers. Our lung cancer specialists will come together and work with you to assess your condition and plan and deliver the most effective treatment.

Your care plan will be custom-made to treat your specific lung cancer and the needs most important to you. Together we will discuss and provide you with a full range of treatment options from across our multi-disciplinary services including:

  • surgery
  • radiation therapy
  • chemotherapy
  • targeted therapies
  • clinical trials.

Some specialist treatments and diagnostics available for you to consider are:

  • video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery including video-assisted lobectomies (remove a part of the lung)
  • endoscopic surgery
  • laser resection
  • stenting
  • intraluminal brachytherapy
  • stereotactic radiation therapy
  • 3D conformal treatments
  • 4D and PET/CT based radiation therapy planning
  • Image guided radiation therapy.


We know how hard cancer and treatment can be. Your lifestyle and that of your loved one's will be disrupted and changed. During this time, it is common to struggle with ongoing concerns about cancer and therapy. There are many expert groups available to provide more information and support you through this time, including:


At Peter Mac, we focus on all aspects of your health and wellbeing. Our lung experts will help support and guide you to the best information and managed care.

Our specialist nurses can refer you to our:


For more information about lung cancers, their treatment and support for patients and families, download copies of the following resources: 


Your needs come first, so we offer expert care across a number of different Lung diseases including:

Malignant mesothelioma
Non-small cell carcinomas (lung)
Small cell carcinomas (lung)
Thymoma and thymic carcinoma
Metastatic cancer involving the lung