Lung cancer is cancer that starts in your lungs.
Cancers that start growing in other organs may spread (metastasize) to the lungs. Cancers that have spread to your lungs aren't really considered lung cancer. They are considered metastatic cancer of whatever organ they started in, such as the breast, colon, or prostate.
Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer
One common symptom is a cough that won’t go away, or a change in a cough you've had for awhile
Lung cancer is most common in people between the ages of 45 and 70
Chest x-rays can find most lung cancers
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death
The main cause of lung cancer is:
If you stop smoking, your risk of cancer goes down. You can still get lung cancer even if you don't smoke.
Other causes of lung cancer include:
Asbestos is a mineral fiber used in insulation and other building materials. Radiation naturally is found in small amounts in the environment, but too much exposure to radiation during x-rays, CT scans, and other imaging tests is a concern. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the ground and can build up to harmful levels in basements.
Symptoms may not appear for awhile. Sometimes doctors find lung cancer by accident when doing a chest x-ray for some other problem.
When people do have symptoms from lung cancer, they usually have:
The cough is usually dry, but sometimes it's wet. You may cough up streaks of blood. The cough may not be bad, but it doesn't go away like coughs from a cold.
As the cancer gets bigger, you may have other symptoms such as:
Lung cancer is often deadly, particularly if it isn’t found early.
Doctors may suspect lung cancer from your symptoms. To know for sure, they will take pictures of your lungs using:
If the pictures show something that looks like cancer, your doctor will do a biopsy. A biopsy takes a sample of tissue from the lungs to send for testing. There are several ways to get a biopsy sample:
Bronchoscopy (most common): The doctor looks down your lungs with a flexible scope that has tools on the end that can take out a small piece of tissue
Needle biopsy: If doctors can't get to the spot using bronchoscopy, sometimes they put a needle through your skin and into your chest to take a sample
Surgery (rarely): If the other 2 methods don't work, doctors may do surgery to open your chest to take a sample
By looking at the biopsy sample under a microscope, your doctors can tell whether you have cancer. If you have cancer, they can tell what type it is.
If you don't have any symptoms, you should have tests for lung cancer only if you're at high risk. You're at high risk if:
Doctors usually do a CT scan of the chest on high-risk people. Testing other people doesn't seem to save any lives.
Your treatment plan depends on your type of lung cancer, how severe it is, and where it's located in your body.
Doctors treat lung cancer with:
Doctors treat the symptoms of lung cancer with:
You can prevent lung cancer by: