Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably, a mass of tissue forms. This is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. They can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
Lung cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the lungs. There are two types of lung cancers:
The following can cause damage to the cells in the lungs, leading to lung cancer:
These factors increase your chance of developing lung cancer:
Symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will also ask about:
Tests may include:
Once lung cancer is found, staging tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread. The goal of treatment is to eliminate the cancer and/or control the symptoms.
Surgery involves removing the tumor and nearby tissue. Lymph nodes may also need to be removed. The type of surgery depends on the location of the tumor, such as:
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This may also be used to relieve symptoms, such as shortness of breath. External radiation is usually used to treat lung cancer. With this treatment, radiation is directed at the tumor from a source outside of the body.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, and via a catheter. Chemotherapy is often used to kill lung cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body.
Researchers continue to study ways to treat lung cancer. The National Cancer Institute considers these potential therapies:
Other treatments that are being researched include:
If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, follow your doctor's instructions .
To reduce your risk of getting lung cancer:
The American Lung Association and American Cancer Society both suggest that screening for lung cancer with a type of CT scan may be considered if you are a smoker (or former smoker), aged 55-74 years, and have a history of heavy smoking (such as one pack a day for 30 years).
American Cancer Society
American Lung Association
Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Lung Association
Can non-small cell lung cancer be found early? American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/LungCancer-Non-SmallCell/DetailedGuide/non-small-cell-lung-cancer-detection. Updated February 17, 2012. Accessed May 14, 2012.
General information about non-small cell lung cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/patient. Accessed October 1, 2012.
Lung cancer CT screening: is it right for me? American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/lung-cancer/lung-cancer-screening-guidelines/lung-cancer-screening-for-patients.pdf. Accessed May 11, 2012.
Monoclonal antibodies. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/TreatmentTypes/Immunotherapy/immunotherapy-monoclonal-antibodies. Updated May 9, 2012. Accessed October 1, 2012.
Munden RF, Swisher SS, Stevens CW, Stewart DJ. Imaging of the patient with non-small cell lung cancer. Radiology. 2005;237(3).:803.
Non-small cell lung cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated September 25, 2012. Accessed October 1, 2012.
Targeted cancer therapies. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/targeted. Accessed October 1, 2012.
11/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: National Cancer Institute. Lung cancer trial results show mortality benefit with low-dose CT. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/pressreleases/NLSTresultsRelease. Accessed November 12, 2010.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Igor Puzanov, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.