Lung cancer begins when abnormal cells grow in one or both lungs. Abnormal cells can invade healthy lung tissue, form tumors and prevent the lung from functioning correctly, resulting in less oxygen circulating in the body.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 200,000 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. More deaths can be attributed to lung cancer than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.
Two Major Types of Lung Cancer:
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) - About 85 to 90 percent of lung cancers are NSCLC.
- Squamous cell carcinoma.
- Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) - About 10 percent of lung cancers are SCLC.
- Lung Nodule - also called a pulmonary nodule, is one of the most common abnormalities seen on radiographic images, and is a small mass of tissue in the lung that is smaller than 3 cm (slightly more than an inch) in diameter. Most lung nodules are benign (noncancerous) and may be due to a previous infection in the lung or other cause; however, they may represent an early stage of primary lung cancer or they may indicate that cancer is spreading from another part of the body to the affected lung.
Most lung cancers do not show signs or symptoms until advanced stages. Lung cancer symptoms may include:
- Cough that does not go away.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain with deep breathing, laughing or coughing.
- Coughing up blood or bloody mucus.
- Recurrent chest infections.
- Weight loss/Loss of appetite.
To help detect lung cancer in the early stages it is recommended that you see your doctor when symptoms are first noticed. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a MemorialCare Physician partner.
Risk Factors & Prevention
You are at a greater risk for lung cancer risk if you:
- Smoke or are exposed to smoke.
- Have a family history of lung cancer.
- Are exposed to occupational agents known to target the lungs, such as asbestos, or to certain environmental elements such as radon or arsenic.
- Have a history of chronic lung disease such as COPD or pulmonary fibrosis.
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Eighty-seven percent of lung cancers are related to smoking. Early diagnosis is crucial for a better quality of life and survival. The survival rate for lung cancer is improved by finding lung cancer at an earlier stage of growth.