Background: All cases of lung cancer diagnosed in Western Australia in 1996 in which surgery was the primary treatment, were reviewed. Reported herein are the characteristics of the patients, the treatment outcomes and a comparison of the management undertaken with that recommended by international guidelines.Methods: All patients with a new diagnosis of lung cancer in Western Australia in the calendar year of 1996 were identified using two different population-based registration systems: the Western Australian (WA) Cancer Registry and the WA Hospital Morbidity Data System. A structured questionnaire on the diagnosis and management was completed for each case. Date of death was determined through the WA Cancer Registry.Results: Six hundred and sixty-eight patients with lung cancer were identified; 132 (20%) were treated with surgery. Lobectomy was the most frequently performed procedure (71%), followed by pneumonectomy (19%). Major complications affected 23% of patients. Postoperative mortality was 6% (3% lobectomy, 12% pneumonectomy). At 5 years the absolute survival was as follows for stage I, II, IIIA, IIIB, respectively: 51%, 45%, 12%, 5%.Conclusions: Investigations and choice of surgery in WA in 1996 reflect current international guidelines. The survival of patients with resectable lung cancer remains unsatisfactory.