Secondary Cancer in The Lung

Secondary cancer in the lung occurs when cancer cells have already spread to the lungs from cancer which began somewhere else in the body. Sometimes cancer cells can break away from where the cancer started and then travel through the lymphatic or blood system to another part in our body, such as the lungs.

secondary cancer

Secondary cancer in lungs occurs when cancer cells have traveled to the lungs from cancer which started somewhere else in our body. We have some separate information about cancer which starts in the lung, commonly known as primary lung cancer. We do hope this information answers your inquiries. If you have any further questions you can ask your GP or nurse at the hospital where you get your treatment.

The symptoms of secondary cancer in the lungs may include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Pain or discomfort in your chest
  • A cough
  • A build up of fluid in the pleura, known as the pleural effusion.

Some People may not Have Symptoms

Tests for diagnosing secondary cancer in the lung cover CT, chest x-ray, or PET scan or biopsy. Your nurse or GP will discuss over treatments option with you. The treatment is commonly to control the cancer. Sometimes it might be to cure the cancer. The treatments can vary, which may include hormonal or targeted therapies, chemotherapy. Sometimes surgery can be carried out to remove the secondary cancer. Radiotherapy can help to relieve symptoms or the secondary lung cancer. Some other treatment which is called ablation can also be operative. This makes use of heat or cold to demolish the cancer cells.

In addition you can have treatment to help with symptoms such as fluid on the lung or breathlessness. Your GP or nurse can tell you more about this. Oftentimes cancer cells break away from the part of the body where cancer started, which means the primary cancer. They can travel in the lymphatic system or in the blood to another part of our body, such a lungs. This is called the secondary lung cancer or the metastatic cancer.

Some cancers are found to spread to the lungs than others. These are:


  • bowel (colon and rectum)
  • kidney (renal)
  • bladder
  • breast
  • gullet (oesophagus)
  • sarcomas (bone and soft tissue sarcomas).
  • testicle
  • stomach
  • melanoma (a kind of skin cancer)

Sometimes, people are diagnosed with secondary cancer prior to the diagnosis of primary cancer. In this regard, you will have tests to locate where the cancer grew. Occasionally, doctors may not be able to locate the primary cancer. This is known as the unknown primary. Some people may not show any symptoms. Secondary lung cancer can be diagnosed after routine scan or during chest x-ray run for another condition. The symptoms of lung cancer may include any of the followings:

  • a build up of fluid in the pleura
  • a cough that doesn’t clear up
  • feeling breathless
  • coughing up blood in your phlegm
  • discomfort in your chest that doesn’t go away


Some people may possess the general symptoms such as weight loss, tiredness, or losing their appetite. These symptoms can be triggered by conditions other than cells of cancer, for instance a chest infection. You need t see your GP if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms. If you do not feel better after the treatment such as the use of antibiotic, your GP will carry out some other tests.

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