MediFind
Condition

Lung Cancer

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is cancer that starts in the lungs.

The lungs are located in the chest. When you breathe, air goes through your nose, down your windpipe (trachea), and into the lungs, where it flows through tubes called bronchi. Most lung cancer begins in the cells that line these tubes.

There are two main types of lung cancer:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer.
  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) makes up about 20% of all lung cancer cases.

If the lung cancer is made up of both types, it is called mixed small cell/large cell cancer.

If the cancer started somewhere else in the body and spreads to the lungs, it is called metastatic cancer to the lung.

What are the alternative names for Lung Cancer?

Cancer - lung

What are the causes for Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer for both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer is more common in older adults. It is rare in people under age 45.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Close to 90% of lung cancer is related to smoking. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk for lung cancer. The risk does decrease with time after you stop smoking. There is no evidence that smoking low-tar cigarettes lowers the risk.

Certain types of lung cancer can also affect people who have never smoked.

Secondhand smoke (breathing the smoke of others) increases your risk for lung cancer.

The following may also increase your risk for lung cancer:

  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals such as uranium, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline, and diesel exhaust
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • High levels of air pollution
  • High levels of arsenic in drinking water
  • Radiation therapy to the lungs 

What are the symptoms for Lung Cancer?

Early lung cancer may not cause any symptoms.

Symptoms depend on the type of cancer you have, but may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough that does not go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Other symptoms that may also occur with lung cancer, often in the late stages:

  • Bone pain or tenderness
  • Eyelid drooping
  • Facial paralysis
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Joint pain
  • Nail problems
  • Shoulder pain
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Swelling of the face or arms
  • Weakness

These symptoms can also be due to other, less serious conditions, so it is important to talk to your health care provider.

What are the current treatments for Lung Cancer?

Treatment for lung cancer depends on the type of cancer, how advanced it is, and how healthy you are:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor may be done when it has not spread beyond nearby lymph nodes.
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and stop new cells from growing.
  • Radiation therapy uses powerful x-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells.

The above treatments may be done alone or in combination. Your provider can tell you more about the specific treatment you will receive, depending on the specific type of lung cancer and what stage it is.

What are the support groups for Lung Cancer?

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Lung Cancer?

How well you do depends mostly on how much the lung cancer has spread.

When should I contact a medical professional for Lung Cancer?

Call your provider if you have symptoms of lung cancer, particularly if you smoke.

How do I prevent Lung Cancer?

If you smoke, now is the time to quit. If you are having trouble quitting, talk with your provider. There are many methods to help you quit, from support groups to prescription medicines. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.

REFERENCES

Araujo LH, Horn L, Merritt RE, et al. Cancer of the lung: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 69.

Gillaspie EA, Lewis J, Leora Horn L. Lung cancer. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2020. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier 2020:862-871.

National Cancer Institute website. Non-small cell lung cancer treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/lung/hp/non-small-cell-lung-treatment-pdq. Updated May 7, 2020. Accessed July 14, 2020.

National Cancer Institute website. Small cell lung cancer treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/lung/hp/small-cell-lung-treatment-pdq. Updated March 24, 2020. Accessed July 14, 2020.

Silvestri GA, Pastis NJ, Tanner NT, Jett JR. Clinical aspects of lung cancer. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 53.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: COVID-19 with Comorbid Pulmonary Disease
  • Journal: Therapeutic advances in respiratory disease
  • Treatment Used: Doxycycline
  • Number of Patients: 4
  • Published —
This case report describes 4 patients with COVID-19 with comorbid pulmonary disease that were treated using doxycycline.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: COVID-19 and Lung Cancer
  • Journal: European journal of cardio-thoracic surgery : official journal of the European Association for Cardio-thoracic Surgery
  • Treatment Used: Lung Surgery
  • Number of Patients: 5
  • Published —
In this study, researchers evaluated the outcomes of performing surgery for the treatment of lung cancer while patients are infected with COVID-19.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Lung Cancer
  • Journal: Zhongguo fei ai za zhi = Chinese journal of lung cancer
  • Treatment Used: Ensartinib
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This review summarizes the preliminary safety, effectiveness, pharmacology and pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics of ensartinib in the treatment of lung cancer.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Recurrent Lung Cancer
  • Journal: Zhongguo fei ai za zhi = Chinese journal of lung cancer
  • Treatment Used: Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) Right Upper Lobe Anterior Segmentectomy in Post-Left Pneumonectomy
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report describes a patient who underwent video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) anterior segmentectomy of the right upper lobe for recurrent lung cancer after pneumonectomy (lung removal) for primary lung cancer one year earlier.