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Lung Cancer

Karolinska University Hospital is an OECI-designated comprehensive cancer hospital which means it meets the strict standards of the Organisation of European Cancer Institutes. A new era of personalized cancer medicine has emerged, and Karolinska University Hospital is at the forefront of this development, offering the latest diagnostics and treatments for lung cancer, to improve the lives of our patients.

Lung cancer is a significant health burden, being the most common and deadly type of cancer globally, with the most cancer deaths each year. There are two major types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer, and small cell lung cancer, the former being the most common and further divided into subtypes, including adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

The primary risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, which is responsible for 80-90% of lung cancer cases. Other risk factors include secondhand smoke (exposure to other people's smoke), asbestos, radon, and air pollution. Lung cancer may also occur without any obvious risk factors; in fact, 10-20% of lung cancer happens to those who have never smoked.


The data is updated approximately every quarter and covers the last 12 months. Data provided by PREM, read more about PREM here.

Common symptoms of lung cancer are persistent coughing, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of weight, and fatigue. Sometimes lung cancer is without symptoms, and the first sign of the disease is found during tests for other medical conditions. 

It is vital to characterize the extent and type of lung cancer to be able to determine the optimal treatment for each patient. In order to do so, patients are examined with different radiological techniques, such as computer tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET), as well as tumor sampling methods, including bronchoscopy and needle biopsy through the chest wall (transthoracic needle biopsy). Research has led to the understanding that lung cancer is not just one type of disease but rather several different subtypes, sometimes with genetic changes or mutations, that call for different treatments. As part of this personalized medicine approach, genetic testing of lung cancer is now in our clinical routine to determine if there are any genetic changes in the tumors that may be targeted for therapies.

The decision on treatments is made in multidisciplinary conferences where different specialties are represented, including oncologists, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, pathologists, and radiologists. Based on the information gained from the diagnostic procedures and the patient's situation, such as general condition, symptoms, other diseases, and medications, a treatment recommendation is offered and discussed with the patient.   
Surgery is performed in around 15-20% of lung cancer patients in the early stages of the disease, where the cancer has not spread to other organs outside the chest. We offer the latest surgical techniques with minimally invasive methods that decrease the time spent in the hospital and improve recovery after surgery. 
Radiation therapy is commonly used in the treatment of lung cancer for different purposes, including as an alternative to surgery in the early stages and to relieve symptoms, such as pain, in more advanced diseases. Radiation therapy can be delivered in various ways. Our center offers the latest developments in the field, such as stereotactic body radiotherapy, invented at our hospital, as well as proton therapy at our national proton therapy center. The technique of stereotactic radiosurgery using the Gamma Knife for precision radiation therapy of brain metastasis was developed at our hospital. 
Medical treatments are used in all stages of lung cancer alone or combined with surgery or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is given as a single agent or in combination and is an essential part of treatment for many lung cancer patients. 
The identification of genetic abnormalities in lung cancer has led to the introduction of targeted therapies that block the products of these genes leading to tumor growth inhibition. An increasing number of lung cancer patients are offered targeted therapies at our center. 
Immunotherapy is another therapeutic option for lung cancer patients and functions to stimulate the immune system, helping it to recognize and fight the cancer. Immunotherapy agents may be used alone or in combination with other agents, such as chemotherapy. 

Clinical trials and research are vital to improving lung cancer care and treatment and are an important part of our activities. Participation in clinical trials may give access to new treatments or treatment combinations that are effective against the tumor. 
Our doctors lead a large number of clinical trials that test new drugs or new combinations of therapies, including medical, surgical, and radiation therapy techniques. Research also involves identifying factors to diagnose better and predict the benefit of treatments, so-called biomarkers.

Our multidisciplinary team includes experts specializing in lung cancer treatment; clinical oncologists, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals focusing on lung cancer care. Being one of the largest university hospitals in Europe with a high number of patients, our experts have a very high level of expertise. Together with the world-renowned Karolinska Institutet, home of the Nobel Prize, we are leaders in research and development.

Thoracic Surgery

We are a driving force in developing and implementing modern surgical methods and are at the forefront of minimally invasive surgery in the chest cavity. Thoracic Surgery
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