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Lung cancer (secondary)

Secondary lung cancer starts elsewhere in the body and spreads to the lungs.

If you have secondary lung cancer, you may find it helpful to read this section together with the section for your primary cancer (where the cancer started).

Meet the Lung team.


Symptoms of secondary lung cancer

If a cancer spreads to the lungs from another part of the body, this is known as secondary or metastatic lung cancer.

Cancerous tumours are made up of millions of cells. Some of these cells may break away from the primary cancer and travel in the bloodstream or the lymphatic system to another part of the body – in this case, the lungs. Cancers that may spread to this area are those of the:

  • large bowel (colon and rectum)
  • breast
  • bladder
  • testicle
  • stomach
  • gullet (oesophagus)
  • kidney (renal)
  • and a type of skin cancer called malignant melanoma.

The symptoms of a secondary lung cancer can include:

  • a cough that doesn’t clear up
  • breathlessness
  • coughing up blood (haemoptysis)
  • persistent pain or discomfort in the chest.
  • a build-up of fluid in the pleura

Many of these symptoms are similar to those of a primary lung cancer. They are more commonly caused by conditions other than cancer, such as a chest infection, but you should see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

A doctor may suspect a secondary lung cancer if you’ve already been diagnosed with a cancer and you have some of these symptoms, particularly if they don’t respond to other treatment such as antibiotics. Sometimes, secondaries or metastases are found before a primary cancer has been diagnosed. Occasionally, it may not be possible to find the original cancer – this is called an ‘unknown primary’.


Patient information

For more information from Macmillan regarding lung cancer, please follow this link.

For more information from Cancer Research UK regarding lung cancer, please follow this link.

Roy Castle provides really useful information on lung cancer and this can be found by following this link.