Lung cancer


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What to look out for

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in Scotland with around 5,000 new cases diagnosed every year. But there is some good news – more people than ever in Scotland are surviving the disease. This is down to improved treatments and more people getting checked earlier.

Your risk of lung cancer increases with age but finding it early makes it easier to treat and improves your chance of survival.

Signs and symptoms

If you've had a cough for three weeks, it's worth getting it checked out with your GP practice. Chances are it's nothing to worry about but it could be a sign of lung cancer.

Below is a list of other symptoms that if you have, you should see your GP practice about. Having one or more of these doesn’t mean you have lung cancer. However, if you’ve had them for more than three weeks you shouldn’t ignore them – just visit your GP practice to be on the safe side.

  • A cough you've had for 3 weeks or more.
  • A cough you've had for a long time that's got worse or changes.
  • Feeling breathless for no reason.
  • A chest infection that doesn't clear up.
  • Coughing blood.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Chest or shoulder pains.
  • Unexplained tiredness or lack of energy.
  • A hoarse voice.

Worried about family or friends?


  1. Lung cancer is the most common cancer in Scotland with approximately 5,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
  2. More people than ever in Scotland are surviving lung cancer.
  3. The earlier lung cancer is found, the easier it is to treat and the more likely you are to survive.
  4. Lung cancer rates in women have almost doubled in Scotland over the past 40 years.

Getting checked – what's involved?

Some people put off going to the doctor because they think they'll be wasting their GP practice's time. Your doctor won't think that – they want to see you if you’re worried about any potential symptoms.

It’s always best to get checked out early – here’s what will happen when you visit your doctor.

  • Your GP will listen carefully to your story about what you have noticed with your health and will ask some questions about your symptoms.
  • Your GP will want to examine your chest.
  • They’ll decide if you need to have a chest x-ray or other tests and will arrange these for you. If you need more investigations, your GP practice may arrange for you to see a chest specialist.
  • If you’re diagnosed with lung cancer, you’ll be referred to a lung cancer team for treatment and care.


Research advancements

Lung cancer is not as hopeless a diagnosis as it was even a few years ago – a lot has changed in recent years. 

We have access to brand new specialised radiotherapy equipment that have enabled us to develop and implement techniques to treat lung cancer more aggressively where previously we may only have been able to offer palliative treatment.

At the same time as having greater control of the cancer, we are able to minimise the side effects of the treatments by targeting the cancer more accurately, thereby reducing damage to the healthy surrounding tissues.

As clinicians, we want people to be diagnosed with lung cancer early as it opens up more treatment options such as surgery, radiotherapy and drug treatment. It is really important that patients, relatives and health care professionals are aware of the advances in the treatment of lung cancer and do not ignore symptoms that could turn out to be successfully treatable cancers.

Stephen Harrow, Consultant Clinical Oncologist and Lead Clinician for Radiotherapy Research at The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre:

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