Content Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Lung cancers are cancers that begin in the lungs. Other types of cancers may spread to the lungs from other organs. However, these are not lung cancers because they did not start in the lungs. When cancer cells spread from one organ to another, they are called metastases.
Research has found several risk factors for lung cancer. A "risk factor" is anything that changes risk of getting a disease. Different risk factors change risk by different amounts.
The risk factors for lung cancer include—
- Smoking and being around others' smoke.
- Things around us at home or work (such as radon gas).
- Personal traits (such as having a family history of lung cancer).
Different people have different symptoms for lung cancer. Some people don't have any symptoms at all. About 25% of people with lung cancer do not have symptoms from advanced cancer when their lung cancer is found. Lung cancer symptoms may include—
- Shortness of breath.
- Coughing that doesn't go away.
- Coughing up blood.
- Chest pain.
Other changes that can sometimes occur with lung cancer may include repeated bouts of pneumonia and swollen or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) inside the chest in the area between the lungs.
These symptoms can happen with other illnesses, too. People with symptoms should talk to their doctor, who can help find the cause.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A person's lung cancer diagnosis depends on the type of lung cancer present. The two main types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is more common than small cell lung cancer. These categories refer to what the cancer cells look like under a microscope.
The extent of disease is referred to as the stage. Information about how big a cancer is or how far it has spread is often used to determine the stage. Doctors use information about stage to plan treatment and to monitor progress.
For more information, visit Stages of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and Stages of Small Cell Lung Cancer.
Types of Treatment
There are several ways to treat lung cancer. The treatment depends on the type of lung cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. People with lung cancer often get more than one kind of treatment.
- Surgery: Doctors cut out and remove cancer tissue in an operation.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs could be pills or medicines given through an IV (intravenous) tube. Sometimes chemotherapy includes both IV drugs and pills.
- Radiation: Radiation uses high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to try to kill the cancer cells. The rays are aimed at the part of the body where the cancer is.
Learn about treatments for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and Small Cell Lung Cancer.
These treatments may be provided by different doctors on your medical team. Pulmonologists are doctors who are experts in diseases of the lungs. Surgeons are doctors who perform operations. Medical oncologists are doctors who are experts in cancer and treat cancers with medicines. Radiation oncologists are doctors who treat cancers with radiation.
People with lung cancer may want to take part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials study new potential treatment options. Visit the sites listed below for more information about clinical trials.