Lung Cancer​​

Lung cancer, also known as lung carcinoma is a malignant lung tumor characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung into nearby tissue or other parts of the body. Instead of developing into healthy cells these cells form a mass of cells, known as a tumour. ​​

You may not be able to feel any evident symptoms of lung cancer in the earlier stages. However, if the cancer progresses, you may report a persistent cough that is not cured by medication. You may also feel that the cough gets progressively worse and is accompanied with an increased amount of phlegm sometimes laced with blood (or brownish material). In the later stages you may cough up pure blood as well. You might also feel pains in the chest while coughing, laughing or breathing heavily. The disease can also lead to a shortness of breath and may contribute to wheezing. You may get chest infections including bronchitis and pneumonia, on a frequently recurring basis. The voice may become hoarse and throaty. There may be pain in the shoulder, arm or neck along with the back, which may get pronounced during rest. Upon inspection you might notice neck and facial swelling. You may feel a loss of appetite for no apparent reason and unexplained weight loss. There may be a perpetual fatigue that is unresolved by sleep. ​

If you experience a cough that seems unrelated to the common cold or a respiratory infection that persists beyond two weeks, report it immediately. You may already be suffering from a chronic 'smoker's cough'; however, if you notice any changes in it, take notice. For a detailed examination, you can consult specialists working with the Heart, Lungs and Vascular Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

If you start coughing more often than before, or notice discoloration and volume changes in the mucus you expel, take notice and make an appointment with the doctors at the Oncology Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

In an effort to detect the possibility of lung cancer, you will be asked to discuss your symptoms with the doctor. You will be asked about your medical history and the prevalence of lung cancer in your family. For further investigations, you may be asked to have a chest x-ray followed by a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan to detect any abnormal mass or growth and perhaps a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan to categorize the tumour and detect spread. If any irregularities are noticed in the aforementioned imaging tests, the doctor will ask you to take further tests to examine the lung tissue or fluid. The most common is bronchoscopy. Bronchoscopy employs the use of a flexible tube that is inserted in the lungs through the nose or mouth to check for any tumorous growth. If one is detected, a tissue sample/ biopsy are obtained through the bronchoscope. Alternatively, fine needle biopsy can be done with CT scan guidance. If cancerous cells are confirmed, the cancer is graded on a scale of 1 to 3, a lower grade signifying a less advanced disease. In the case of cancer spread, the doctor will ask you to undergo additional tests to assess the spread to other organs, e.g. bone or brain scans. 

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, you will be offered a number of treatments to choose from.

  • Surgery is the most common choice for patients whose cancer has not spread beyond the lung tumour and the adjoining lymph nodes. Depending upon the extent of cancer spread, the surgeon can either remove an entire lung lobe (Lobectomy), or part of the lung that is affected (Segmentectomy), or the tumour with surrounding healthy tissue (wedge resection), or if the tumour is more extensive, the surgeon may remove the entire lung (Pneumonectomy). Specialized procedures such as sleeve resections or carinal resections are offered as needed in individual patients.  

  • Minimally invasive surgeries like Mediastinoscopy or Video Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery are often employed to stage the cancer by biopsying lymph nodes. 

  • In some cases, radiation therapy is more appropriate. This treatment employs the use of high energy X-rays or particles that kill the cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy is often required. This treatment employs the administration of anti-cancer drugs either intravenously or orally. Chemotherapy is effective especially if there are metastasizes or spread. 

  • You can also choose targeted therapy as a treatment option for the disease. The therapy targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. The treatment limits and inhibits the growth of cancerous cells whilst maintaining the status of healthy cells in the body. This treatment option though is still under clinical trials. ​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.



​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.