Lung Cancer Facts

About Lung Cancer

About 200,000 new lung cancer cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). In addition, more deaths are associated with lung cancer than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

Though the number of new cases of lung cancer every year may be staggering, it’s important to remember that the survival rate has improved due to early diagnosis and treatment. Arming oneself with information about the disease will improve chances of survival.

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in one or both of the lungs. These abnormal cells can form tumors that prevent the lungs from functioning properly, leading to less oxygen circulating in the body.

Lung Cancer Risk Factors

There are several things that put a person more at risk for developing lung cancer, but probably the biggest risk factor is smoking.

Eighty-seven percent of lung cancers are caused by smoking, which makes it the leading cause of lung cancer. You are at risk for lung cancer if you have a family history of it or if you are exposed to environmental or occupational agents that are known to affect the lungs such as asbestos, radon or arsenic. You are also more at risk for developing lung cancer if you have a history of a chronic lung disease like COPD or pulmonary fibrosis.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Unfortunately, most lung cancers have no signs or symptoms until the advanced stages. These are some of the more common symptoms that may occur with lung cancer. A person may get a cough that won’t go away or coughs up blood or bloody mucus. There may be shortness of breath or chest pain with deep breathing, laughing or coughing. There also may be hoarseness, wheezing or recurrent chest infections. Weight loss and loss of appetite can also be symptoms.

It’s important to catch lung cancer in its early stages and that’s why it’s recommended that you see your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

Types of Lung Cancer

Not every abnormality seen on the lungs is lung cancer. One of the most common abnormalities seen on radiographic images of the lung is a nodule, which is also called a pulmonary nodule. It’s a small mass of tissue in the lung that’s about an inch in diameter. Most lung nodules are benign or non-cancerous. They may be due to a previous lung infection. However, sometimes they represent the early stages of primary lung cancer or indicate that cancer is spreading from another part of the body to the lung.

When cancer is determined to be present, tests are done to figure out what type of lung cancer it is.

There are several types of lung cancer, but the most common type is Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). About 85 to 90 percent of lung cancers are NSCLC. There are three forms of NSCLS including squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large-cell.

Only about 10 percent of all lung cancers are Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC).