The Big C -- no easy cure
THE Cancer Council Australia says there are 7500 new cases of lung cancer in Australia each year.
Two-thirds of patients diagnosed with lung cancer are men, says council chief executive Alan Coates.
While refusing to comment on Premier Jim Bacon's illness, Professor Coates said treatment of lung cancers depended on the type and the stage.
"It is easy to prevent and hard to cure," he said. "About 89 per cent of lung cancer in men is caused by smoking. The rate of lung cancers in men is declining and it has plateaued in women."
While there are many types of lung cancer, they fall in to two categories: small cell and non-small cell.
About 80 per cent of lung cancers are non-small cell and they can often be treated surgically with the removal of part or all of the lung.
However, if the cancer cannot be removed surgically, patients may be treated with chemotherapy.
Small-cell lung cancers cannot be surgically removed and are treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Professor Coates said the success of treatment varied enormously.
"John Fahey [former federal minister] was said to have advanced lung cancer and he has done extraordinarily well from all accounts," he said. "There used to be a very nihilistic approach to treating lung cancer but that has changed.
"Survival depends on how advanced it is, the right treatment and sometimes just luck."
The symptoms of lung cancer can include a cough, coughing up blood and shortness of breath, and should be investigated.
"People need to give up smoking," he said.