Lung cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. Each year, more people die from lung cancer than from breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined.
Lung cancer is not one disease, but rather a group of diseases that all start in the lungs. The most common type of lung cancer is called non-small cell lung cancer. This type of lung cancer starts in the cells that line the airways. Another type of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer, starts in the cells that produce mucus and sweat.
Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. But, nonsmokers can also get lung cancer. Exposure to radon gas, air pollution, asbestos, and other cancer-causing substances can also increase the risk of lung cancer.
There are two main types of treatment for lung cancer: surgery and chemotherapy. Surgery is a type of treatment that removes the tumor from the lung. Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is a type of treatment that uses radiation to kill cancer cells.
Every lung cancer is different, and depending on what type a person has may require varying forms of treatment.
There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. There is also a rare type of lung cancer called mesothelioma. Another type of cancer may include a lung tumor, often referred to as chest wall tumors.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type. This type of lung cancer starts in the cells that line the airways. Non-small cell lung cancer can occur in any part of the lungs, but it is more common in the lungs’ outer edges. This type of lung cancer is more common in women than men and is not usually found in smokers.
There are many different types of non-small cell lung cancer, and each person’s lung cancer may be treated differently. The four main types of non-small cell lung cancer are:
Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is a rare type of lung cancer that starts in the thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and chest cavity. This type of lung cancer is more common in men than women and is usually found in smokers. It is also often caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma tends to develop over a slow period, between 30 to 50 years between asbestos exposure and getting cancer. Mesothelioma can also occur in the stomach, heart, or testicle lining.
Chest Wall Tumors: Developing a lung tumor, or chest wall tumor, is rare. However, these kinds of tumors may be malignant or being. Malignant tumors require treatment, whereas being tumors may require treatment depending on their area and the symptoms they cause. For example, if the tumor presses against a person's lung and gives them trouble breathing, it will require treatment.
Metastasized Cancer: Some cancers in the lung are due to pulmonary metastasis — cancer beginning in another part of the body and spreading to the lung through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. Almost any cancer can metastasize to the lung.
Symptoms of lung cancer vary depending on the type of lung cancer, how advanced it is, and the person’s overall health. Symptoms of lung cancer may include:
Although each person’s experience with lung cancer is unique, these are some of the most common symptoms. If a person has any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to helping people with lung cancer recover.
Lung cancer is most often found in smokers, but nonsmokers can also get lung cancer. Anyone who breathes in air that has been polluted with carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) is at risk for developing lung cancer.
There are several risk factors for lung cancer, including:
There are many ways to diagnose lung cancer. The most common tests used to diagnose lung cancer include:
Chest x-ray: A chest x-ray is a picture of the lungs taken with a special camera. This test may show tumors, abnormalities, and fluid in the lungs.
Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan is a type of x-ray that uses computer technology to create detailed images of the body. This test can help doctors see tumors and other abnormalities in the lungs.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A PET scan is a test that uses radioactive materials to help doctors see how active tumor cells are.
Bronchoscopy: A bronchoscopy is a procedure that uses a thin, lighted tube to look inside the airways of the lungs. This test can help doctors see tumors, abnormal growths, and blockages in the lungs.
Sputum cytology: Sputum cytology is a test that examines cells in the sputum (mucus that is coughed up from the lungs). This test can help doctors see if lung cancer is present.
Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure that removes a small piece of tissue from the body, so it can be examined under a microscope. This test can help doctors determine if a tumor is cancerous.
Lung cancer is most often treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. Treatment options vary depending on the stage of the cancer and the person’s overall health. It is important to talk with a doctor about the best treatment plan for each individual.
Lung surgery is the most common treatment for this type of cancer. Lung surgery may be used to remove tumors from the lungs or other parts of the body. Lung surgery may also be used to remove a section of the lung that has been damaged by cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used to treat lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy or surgery.
A person’s health care team will work with him or her to develop a treatment plan that meets his or her needs.
It is important to remember that each person’s experience with lung cancer is unique, and no one treatment plan is right for everyone. People with lung cancer should always discuss their treatment options with their health care team.
Keeping proper lung health is extremely important in preventing lung cancer There are several things a person can do to help keep proper lung health, including: