Lung cancer


The NSW Cancer Plan aims to lessen the impact of all cancers on the community. Lung cancer is a focus of the plan because it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide, and the leading cause of all cancer-related deaths.

The impact of lung cancer

In NSW, lung cancer accounts for almost one in ten (9%) of all cancer diagnoses. Survival from lung cancer is much lower than most other cancers. 

  • We know most lung cancers diagnosed in NSW are caused by smoking (tobacco consumption). As smoking rates drop, lung cancer rates are dropping.1
  • However, lung cancer does not only affect smokers. An increasing amount of people – particularly women – who have never smoked are also being diagnosed with lung cancer. For this reason, it is important that the public is aware of the symptoms of lung cancer.1

The NSW Cancer Plan recognises that lung cancer has the highest impact on disadvantaged communities:

  • Aboriginal Australians are twice as likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer, and twice as likely to die from the disease as non-Aboriginal Australians.2
  • Based on smoking trends, lung cancer incidence is expected to increase greatly in some culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
  • People in the most socio-economically disadvantaged communities are twice as likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer, and twice as likely to die from their disease, than people in the least disadvantaged communities.3
  • Lung cancer incidence in remote and very remote communities is 31% higher than in major cities. The lung cancer death rate (mortality) is 33% higher in these communities.3

What we are achieving to lessen the impact of lung cancer

We are working across prevention, diagnosis and treatment to improve lung cancer outcomes. Here is how we have made a difference over the past 12 months:


We encourage people to quit and stay quit through social marketing campaigns, including You Quit, You Win. This campaign targets all people who smoke in NSW and provides information on the benefits of quitting smoking today. It was developed with Cancer Council Victoria.


Browse all our current and past campaigns.

We enhanced the NSW Quitline through:

  • an online referral form for health professionals
  • providing feedback to health professionals on patients who have enrolled in the call-back service
  • improving the NSW Aboriginal Quitline
  • expanding the support services, including new Quit Kit resources and motivational SMS texts
  • establishing tailored smoking cessation support for people diagnosed with cancer.

We encourage people to call NSW Quitline for tailored and evidence-based advice, support and counselling to stop smoking. This may include one-off or multiple phone calls, motivational SMS texts and access to information and resources. Anyone can call NSW Quitline, and referrals from health professional can be made online or by fax.


​We are promoting to support smokers in their quit journey by:

  • promoting the online peer forum and quit program
  • providing quit planning tools, such as the savings calculator.

We are working with government and non-government partners to make quitting (smoking cessation) interventions 'everyone's business'. This has involved:

  • working with local health district (LHD) cancer services to implement the NSW Smoking Cessation Framework for NSW Health Services. Learn more about smoking cessation in cancer services
  • completing a training needs assessment and working with partners to develop the NSW Smoking Cessation Training Plan
  • designing enhancements to the NSW Health electronic medical records system to support the delivery of smoking cessation interventions
  • supporting the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council with funding for the provision of nicotine replacement therapy through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services
  • supporting the Shisha No Thanks project to improve awareness of the harms of waterpipe smoking in the community. An online training module is available to health and community workers.


Diagnosis and treatment

We developed brochures for the Aboriginal community to explain the lung cancer pathway (Finding lung cancer and Having lung cancer) in consultation with 17 Aboriginal medical services across NSW. These resources assist Aboriginal people to identify the symptoms of lung cancer and, if diagnosed, make informed decisions about their treatment. 

A key outcome was the establishment of the Aboriginal Program Development Committee, a governance function which is now embedded in the Institute. 

This consultative approach resulted in the development of culturally appropriate resources that are widely accepted and used by the Aboriginal community in NSW. Feedback from an evaluation was positive, and we are considering further opportunities for involvement with the Aboriginal community. 

“I would really love to see more Aboriginal workers specialising in cancer and I think having this resource for Aboriginal workers to provide to community information and speak to families, I think that’s a way to go!” Aboriginal Program Development Committee member

We are implementing best practice in lung cancer treatment for NSW patients:

  • We continue to work with LHDs to develop measures of multidisciplinary cancer care. These are reported annually to LHDs as part of the Reporting for Better Cancer Outcomes program.
  • We are promoting specialist lung cancer centres across NSW, including through Canrefer. Evidence shows people with a lung cancer diagnosis who require surgery have better outcomes when they have surgery in a centre that does a lot of these procedures
  • Through the NSW Smoking Cessation Framework, we are supporting NSW health services to implement smoking cessation brief interventions as part of routine care. This is being led by cancer services within LHDs. Importantly, stopping smoking at any time has benefits; and for people with cancer, quitting smoking improves overall health and the chance of survival, and lowers the risk of cancer reoccurring or getting a different type of cancer.4,5

We are supporting people with lung cancer to make informed decisions about their care. This includes providing reliable online patient information about lung cancer diagnosis and treatment, and available support services.

We are supporting clinicians working at the point of care to provide best practice care for people with lung cancer:

NSW Cancer Plan initiatives for lung cancer

We can reduce the impact of lung cancer by:

  • decreasing smoking rates
  • ensuring lung cancer is diagnosed as early as possible
  • delivering the most appropriate high-quality treatment. 

The specific actions related to improving lung cancer outcomes in the NSW Cancer Plan include:

  • public education campaigns and support services to reduce smoking
  • brief interventions for smoking cessation in clinical and community settings
  • screening and surveillance activities for high-risk populations
  • optimising lung cancer pathways
  • information and resources for primary health care providers, including Canrefer

Progress of the NSW Cancer Plan is regularly monitored and evaluated. Find more using our NSW Cancer Plan Performance Index.


1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and Causes of Illness and Death in Australia 2015. Canberra: AIHW; 2019.

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People of Australia. Canberra: AIHW; 2018.

3. Cancer Institute NSW. Annual NSW cancer incidence and mortality dataset, 2017 (sourced from the NSW Cancer Registry).

4. Warren GW, Sobus S, Gritz ER. The biological and clinical effects of smoking by patients with cancer and strategies to implement evidence-based tobacco cessation support. Lancet Oncol. 2014;15:e568–80. doi: 10.1016/S1470–2045(14)70266–9.

5. United States, Department of Health and Human Services . The Health Consequences of Smoking– 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.