Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer: Putting It All Together

Here is a summary of the important facts and information related to lung cancer:

  • Smoking by far is the major cause of lung cancer. Other causes include breathing someone else’s smoke, being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, and being exposed to radiation.
  • Lung cancer generally takes many years to develop even though damage to the lungs may occur shortly after a person is exposed to cancer-causing substances.
  • The two main types of lung cancer are small-cell lung cancer, which is less common, and non-small-cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 80% of cases.
  • The main symptoms of lung cancer are coughing up blood and coughing that does not seem to improve and gets worse with time. Other symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, recurrent episodes of pneumonia, weight loss, and feeling tired.
  • Lung cancer is diagnosed with x-rays, an analysis of sputum (material a person coughs up), and biopsy of tissue from the lung.
  • Lung cancer is “staged” based on the extent of the cancer growth and whether it has spread. Staging helps determine the best treatment for the type of cancer. Generally, the lower the stage, the better the person’s prognosis (expected outcome).
  • Treatment for lung cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Other treatments that may be considered are photodynamic therapy and experimental treatments such as immunotherapy and gene therapy.
  • The long-term outcome for people with lung cancer depends on the stage at which the cancer was detected and the general health of the person. When lung cancer is detected in its early stages, the five-year survival rate is about 50%.

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