Optimal timeframes & summary

Evidence-based guidelines, where they exist, should inform timeframes. Treatment teams need to recognise that shorter timeframes for appropriate consultations and treatment can promote a better experience for patients. Three steps in the pathway specify timeframes for care. They are designed to help patients understand the timeframes in which they can expect to be assessed and treated, and to help health services plan care delivery in accordance with expert-informed time parameters to meet the expectation of patients. These timeframes are based on expert advice from the Lung Cancer Working Group.

Timeframes for care

Step in pathway

Care point


Presentation, initial investigations and referral

Signs and symptoms

Presenting symptoms should be promptly and clinically triaged with a health professional

Initial investigations initiated by GP

Patients should be provided with test results within 1 week of presenting to their GP

Referral to specialist

The specialist (linked to a lung cancer multidisciplinary team) appointment should take place within 2 weeks of the GP referral

Diagnosis, staging and treatment planning

Diagnosis and staging

Diagnostic tests should be completed within 2 weeks of the first specialist appointment

Multidisciplinary meeting and treatment planning

All newly diagnosed patients should be discussed in an MDM, usually before treatment begins



Treatment should begin within 6 weeks of specialist referral

Medical emergencies should follow guidelines

Radiation therapy

Local ablative therapies

Systemic therapy

Seven steps of the optimal care pathway

Step 1: Prevention and early detection

Step 2: Presentation, initial investigations and referral

Step 3: Diagnosis, staging and treatment planning

Step 4: Treatment

Step 5: Care after initial treatment and recovery

Step 6: Managing recurrent, residual or metastatic disease

Step 7: End-of-life care

In 2019, lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer-related death and was ranked as the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia (AIHW 2019). Diagnosis of lung cancer is generally higher for men, Indigenous Australians and people living in remote or low-socioeconomic status areas (NCCI 2019a). Over time, the age-standardised incidence rates have decreased for men but increased for women, which is attributed to past differences in the smoking habits of males and females (NCCI 2019a). While smoking is the largest single cause of lung cancer, people who have never smoked can also be diagnosed (Cancer Australia 2020b).