Lung Cancer

General Information | Risk Factors and Symptoms | Diagnosis and Treatment


General information General Information

About Lung Cancer

Tobacco use is a significant risk factor for lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women.

Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably. Early lung cancer seldom causes symptoms; consequently, only about 16% of lung cancer cases are caught in this stage when the cancer is most treatable. In later stages, lung cancer can interfere with lung function. Cells may break away from the tumor and spread (metastasize) to other chest tissue or organs. When lung cancer is found in its earliest stages, chances for cure and long-term survival are much greater.

Facts About Lung Cancer

Following are some facts about lung cancer:

  • The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 226,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States in 2012. They also estimate that there will be about 160,000 deaths from lung cancer during 2012.
  • The overall 5-year survival rate is about 16% for lung cancer. It is so low because the cancer is usually not diagnosed at an early stage.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States. It accounts for more deaths each year than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer combined.
  • Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide.
  • The death rate from lung cancer has leveled out for men. It is still rising in women.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that smoking contributes to 80% of lung cancer cases in women and 90% of lung cancer cases in men.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also indicates that non-smokers who are exposed to second hand smoke at home or at work have a 20-30% greater chance of developing lung cancer.

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Risk factors and symptoms Risk Factors and Symptoms

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Exposure to certain chemicals can increase your chances of developing lung cancer.

The link between smoking and lung cancer is certain. Smoking is the cause of almost 90% of lung cancer cases, making it the greatest risk factor in developing lung cancer. The longer a person has smoked and the more cigarettes smoked per day, the higher the risk.

Following are some risk factors for lung cancer:

  • Tobacco use – smoking or chewing
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, including arsenic, asbestos, radioactive dust, and radon
  • Radiation exposure from occupational, medical, or environmental sources
  • Personal or family history of lung cancer
  • History of tuberculosis

Reducing the Risk

If a person quits smoking before lung cancer has developed, his or her lungs will slowly return to normal. Stopping smoking at any age reduces the risk of lung cancer. However, the sooner you quit the better.

It is impossible to prevent all cases of lung cancer. Some people who develop lung cancer have no known risk factors. However, following are some ways you can reduce your risk:

  • Stop using tobacco products (smoking or chewing)
  • Lessen exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Eat a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables

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Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Sometimes there aren’t any symptoms during the early stages of lung cancer. This explains why only about 16% of lung cancers are diagnosed in the early stages.

Symptoms of advanced lung cancer include:

  • New cough or a cough that won’t go away
  • Constant chest, shoulder or back pain that won’t go away and gets worse during deep breathing
  • New wheezing (whistling noise during breathing)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing up blood or bloody mucous
  • Swelling in the neck and face
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Increasing fatigue and weakness.
  • Recurring respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis
  • Abnormal bulging of the fingernails and toenails

Many of these symptoms can occur with other illnesses also. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk with your primary care doctor to find the cause.


Diagnosis and treatment Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing Lung Cancer

Lung cancer often spreads beyond the lungs before it causes symptoms. So if you are at risk of developing lung cancer, it is important to get screened so any abnormalities can be detected early.

A Lung Cancer Screening is a very low radiation CT scan that allows a radiologist to see abnormalities in the lungs. CT scans are far better than chest x-rays in finding small and early lung cancers. Finding cancer early increases the chance for cure and long-term survival.

Treating this Condition

Radiofrequency ablation (heating), cryoablation (freezing), and microwave ablation (cooking) are non-surgical ways to shrink tumors. Imaging techniques are used to guide a probe into the tumor, where energy is applied directly to the tumor site to destroy the cancerous tissue.

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