Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. It is a leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes most lung cancers. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk of lung cancer. High levels of pollution, radiation and asbestos exposure may also increase risk.
Common symptoms of lung cancer include:
- A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
- Constant chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
- Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
- Swelling of the neck and face
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
Doctors diagnose lung cancer using a physical exam, imaging, and lab tests. Treatment depends on the type, stage, and how advanced it is. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.
Lung cancer, also known as lung carcinoma, is a malignant lung tumor characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung by the process of metastasis into nearby tissue or other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in the lung, known as primary lung cancers, are carcinomas. The two main types are small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). The most common symptoms are coughing (including coughing up blood), weight loss, shortness of breath, and chest pains.
The vast majority (85%) of cases of lung cancer are due to long-term tobacco smoking. About 10–15% of cases occur in people who have never smoked. These cases are often caused by a combination of genetic factors and exposure to radon gas, asbestos, second-hand smoke, or other forms of air pollution. Lung cancer may be seen on chest radiographs and computed tomography (CT) scans. The diagnosis is confirmed by biopsy which is usually performed by bronchoscopy or CT-guidance.
Avoidance of risk factors, including smoking and air pollution, is the primary method of prevention. Treatment and long-term outcomes depend on the type of cancer, the stage (degree of spread), and the person’s overall health. Most cases are not curable. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. NSCLC is sometimes treated with surgery, whereas SCLC usually responds better to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Worldwide in 2012, lung cancer occurred in 1.8 million people and resulted in 1.6 million deaths. This makes it the most common cause of cancer-related death in men and second most common in women after breast cancer. The most common age at diagnosis is 70 years. Overall, 17.4% of people in the United States diagnosed with lung cancer survive five years after the diagnosis, while outcomes on average are worse in the developing world.