Background This study was designed to estimate economic burden of lung cancer in Turkey from payer perspective based on expert panel opinion on practice patterns in clinical practice. Methods In this cost of illness study, direct medical cost was calculated based on cost items related to outpatient visits, laboratory and radiological tests, hospitalizations/interventions, drug treatment, adverse events and metastasis. Indirect cost was calculated based on lost productivity due to early retirement, morbidity and premature death resulting from the illness, the value of lost productivity due to time spent by family caregivers and cost of formal caregivers. Results Cost analysis revealed the total per patient annual direct medical cost for small cell lung cancer to be euro8772), for non-small-cell lung cancer to be euro10,167. Total annual direct medical cost was euro497.9 million, total annual indirect medical cost was euro1.1 billion and total economic burden of lung cancer was euro1.6 billion. Hospitalization/interventions (41%) and indirect costs (68.6%) were the major cost drivers for total direct costs and the overall economic burden of lung cancer, respectively. Conclusions Our findings indicate per patient direct medical costs of small cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer to be substantial and comparable, indicating the substantial economic burden of lung cancer in terms of both direct and indirect costs. Our findings indicate that hospitalization/interventions cost item and indirect costs were the major cost drivers for total direct costs and the overall economic burden of lung cancer, respectively. Our findings emphasize the potential role of improved cancer prevention and early diagnosis strategies, by enabling cost savings related to drug treatment and metastasis management cost items, in sustainability of cancer treatments.