It is important to remember that everyone is treated individually, and if you speak to others going through the lung cancer 'pathway' your journeys may be very different.
Most patients will contact their GP if they develop symptoms of possible lung cancer. If your GP is concerned about your symptoms they will then often organise a chest x-ray, but may also refer you to the lung cancer clinic directly. If there is concern you have a cancer you will be seen in a lung cancer clinic within two weeks.
During the clinic you will be asked lots of questions relating to your current symptoms, general health and any risk factors you may have for the development of a lung cancer. You will also be examined by the doctor. Sometimes, to help the doctors understand how well your lungs are working, lung function tests will be carried out. There may also be blood tests to check on your kidneys and liver.
The next stage is to have a series of investigations to establish if there is a cancer, and whether this cancer has spread outside the lungs. A CT scan is usually the next investigation, identifying exactly where the cancer is in the chest and whether it has spread beyond the lungs.
Depending on the results, you may then have further tests so samples/ biopsies of any abnormal tissue can be taken, and to confirm whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (glands) or elsewhere.
Whilst these investigations are happening, you may meet or be given the contact details of one of the lung cancer specialist nurses. These nurses are experts in the management of lung cancer and have looked after many people who have been in your position. They are happy to answer your questions at any point, and will be aware of how anxious this time can be.
Once the diagnosis and spread (the stage) of the cancer has been determined your case will be discussed at the multidisciplinary team
(MDT) meeting. This is a large meeting where your doctors, specialist nurse, the oncologists (cancer specialists), surgeons, radiologists and pathologists (experts at looking at tumour samples and deciding cancer type) meet to discuss your specific case. Your scans, general health, the type of lung cancer you have and your wishes will be considered to decide an appropriate course of treatment.
After the MDT meeting you will return to the clinic and treatment plans will be discussed with you in detail. The treatment may involve a referral for surgery, or to the oncologists for either chemotherapy or radiotherapy. At all stages you may contact the Lung Cancer Nurse Specialists for support. Sometimes your cancer may have spread to an extent where it cannot be cured. In this ins
tance therapies can be given to improve your symptoms and make you more comfortable. In all circumstances the different options, advantages and disadvantages can be discussed. It is important to feel that you can ask questions of any of the team at any point along the process.