15 Things You Need to Know About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is responsible for more cancer deaths than any other cancer in men and women. In fact, it claims over 150,000 American lives every year. Even though its most commonly associated with smoking, there are many other things that put you at a high risk for lung cancer. Check out our list of things you need to know about lung cancer, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.



1.What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is an aggressive tumor that resides in the lungs. It results in rapid and uncontrollable cell growth in the lung’s tissues. Lung cancer kills more people every year than colon, prostate, ovarian, and breast cancer combined.


2. What are the symptoms?

Initially, someone with lung cancer may not display symptoms. However, as the cancer progresses, the patient may have a persistent cough with or without blood, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain, especially when taking a deep breath.


3. Lung cancer causes: smoking

Cigarettes weaken the lungs’ defense mechanism, thus allowing the carcinogens from the cigarettes to build up in the lungs. Cigarette smoke has at least 73 carcinogens, so it’s no surprise that smoking is responsible for approximately 85 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses.


4. Lung cancer causes: secondhand smoke

Anyone who lives with a smoker has a 20 to 30 percent higher risk of developing lung cancer, and those who are exposed to secondhand smoke at work have an increased risk of 16 to 19 percent.


5. Lung cancer causes: radon gas

For every 100 Bq/m³ increase in radon concentration, your risk of developing lung cancer increases by eight to 16 percent. High levels of radon can build up in any building, so it’s a good idea to pick up a kit and test your home just to be safe.


6. Lung cancer causes: dangerous work

If you work with uranium, arsenic, or other harmful chemicals, you’re at a higher risk of developing lung cancer in the future. Those who were exposed to asbestos, which is found in insulation, years ago are still at risk for developing lung cancer.


7. Lung cancer causes: air pollution

One to two percent of lung cancer is caused by outdoor air pollution, including cars, factories, and power plants. Approximately one and a half percent of lung cancer deaths are a result of indoor air pollution, which includes the burning of wood, charcoal, dung, or crop residue used for cooking and heating.


8. Two main types of lung cancer

Lung cancer has two main types:

  • Small cell lung cancer spreads quickly to other parts of the body during the early stages. This type is mostly found in patients who are or were heavy smokers.
  • Nonsmall cell lung cancer grows slower than small cell lung cancer and consists of 85 percent of lung cancer diagnoses.


9. What’s the stage?

The term “stage” refers to how far the cancer has spread. Small cell lung cancer has two stages:

  • In the limited stage, the cancer is only present in one lung and perhaps the surrounding lymph nodes.
  • In the extensive stage, the cancer is in both lungs and/or other parts of the body.

Nonsmall cell cancer has four stages, and the diagnosis depends on how far the cancer has spread.


10. Can you get checked?

A spiral CT scan can sometimes detect lung cancer in its early stages–the earlier it’s detected, the higher the chance of survival. If you smoke or used to smoke and are between the ages of 55 and 80, it’s encouraged to get a CT scan every year.


11. How is lung cancer diagnosed?

Lung cancer can be diagnosed in a variety of ways:

  • Image testing is where a doctor takes an X-ray of your lungs, which will show any abnormal growths.
  • If you have a cough that produces phlegm, your doctor may request a sputum cytology, which is an examination of the sputum. The sputum can sometimes contain lung cancer cells, which may be detected under a microscope.
  • Your doctor may also test for lung cancer by performing a biopsy, which is a small sample of an abnormal growth that’s examined under a microscope. This type of testing can reveal if the growth is cancerous, and if so, what kind of cancer it is.


12. Early-stage treatment

Sometimes, surgery can help prevent nonsmall cell lung cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Often times, the surgeon will remove the affected part of the lung or even the whole lung. After surgery, the patient may need to undergo radiation or chemotherapy to ensure that all of the cancer cells have been killed.


13. Advanced lung cancer treatment

If the cancer is in an advanced stage, the patient will undergo radiation and chemotherapy, which will help shrink the tumor and control the symptoms, thus lengthening the patient’s life. Chemotherapy is the main course of action for small cell lung cancer.


14. New treatments

Some new treatments include:

  • Targeted therapy is a new type of cancer treatment that targets and attacks cancer cells. It’s commonly used alongside chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy aids your immune system and helps it fight advanced nonsmall cell lung cancer. This treatment is also used with chemotherapy.


15. Join clinical trials

Clinical trials are used to study experimental lung cancer treatments. If your current treatment isn’t working, talk to your doctor about your candidacy for a clinical trial.