Lung Cancer Treatment

This page on is about Lung Cancer Treatment. It covers the latest breakthroughs in Lung Cancer Treatment as well as asbestos lung cancer, and other general Lung Cancer Treatment related topics. There are new lung cancer treatments becoming available every year.

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lung start to grow rapidly in an uncontrolled manner. Lung cancer can start anywhere in the lungs and affect any part of the respiratory system. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women.

What causes lung cancer?

Researchers have identified several causes of lung cancer. Most cases are related to the use of tobacco. Harmful substances, called carcinogens, in tobacco smoke damage the cells in the lungs. Many experts estimate that about 90% of lung cancers are caused by tobacco smoke.

What types of lung cancer are there?

There are two main types of lung cancer: nonsmall cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

The cancer cells of these two types of lung cancer:

  • Look different under a microscope.
  • Grow and spread in different ways.
  • Are treated differently.
  • How common is nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC)?
  • Nonsmall cell lung cancer is more common than small cell lung cancer. Over 80% of all lung cancers are nonsmall cell cancer.2 It generally grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer.

What are the types of nonsmall cell lung cancer?

The types of nonsmall cell lung cancer are:

  • Adenocarcinoma. About 40% of nonsmall cell lung cancers are adenocarcinoma. This type often begins near the outside surface of the lung and may vary both in size and how fast it grows. Adenocarcinoma is likely to spread to lymph nodes and other organs. This type is more common in women, nonsmokers, or former smokers than other types of lung cancer.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma, also called epidermoid carcinoma. About 30% of all lung cancers are squamous cell.3 This type usually begins in one of the larger airway tubes (bronchi), generally grows more slowly than the other types of nonsmall cell cancer, and may vary in size from very small to very large. Squamous cell may spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other organs.
  • Large cell carcinoma. About 10% to 15% of all lung cancers are large cell. This type often begins near the surface of the lung and usually is large when diagnosed. Large cell is likely to spread to lymph nodes and other organs.
  • Adenocarcinoma with less common subtypes such as clear cell or mucinous adenocarcinoma. These mixed types occur less often than the more specific types.

How common is small cell lung cancer (SCLC)?

Small cell lung cancer, which used to be called oat cell cancer, is less common than nonsmall cell lung cancer, accounting for about 20% of lung cancers. This type of cancer grows very rapidly and in over 80% of cases has already spread to other organs in the body by the time it is diagnosed. Small cell lung cancer is more strongly linked to smoking than is nonsmall cell cancer.

Besides tobacco use, what increases my risk for lung cancer?

Exposure to other harmful substances, such as arsenic, asbestos, radioactive dust, and radon, can increase the risk for lung cancer. Having a combination of risk factorsfor example, being a smoker who is also exposed to asbestosgreatly increases your risk of getting lung cancer. Radiation exposure from occupational, medical, or environmental sources may also increase the risk for lung cancer.

How will I know I have lung cancer?

You may not know. Early lung cancer rarely causes symptoms. In its advanced stage, the cancer cells interfere with normal lung function. Respiratory problems, such as a cough, wheezing, or shortness of breath, may be the first symptom of lung cancer.

Does lung cancer spread?

Lung cancer eventually spreads (metastasizes) to nearby lymph nodes or other tissues in the chest, including the other lung. In many cases, lung cancer may also spread to other organs of the body, such as the bones, brain, liver, or adrenal glands.

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

A health professional evaluates a person's symptoms, medical history, smoking history, exposure to environmental and occupational substances, and family history of cancer to help determine if lung cancer may be the cause of respiratory symptoms.

Lung cancer is usually first detected with a chest X-ray. Tests to diagnose nonsmall cell or small cell lung cancer can also help determine the stage of the cancerwhether it is just in the lung or has spread to other parts of the body.

What is the treatment for lung cancer?

Treatment for lung cancer will depend on the stage of the cancer and may include one or more of the following therapies:

  • Surgery (removing the cancer)
  • Radiation therapy (using high-dose X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells)
  • Chemotherapy (using medications to kill cancer cells)

Will treatment cure lung cancer?

Long-term outcome (prognosis) and choice of treatment for lung cancer depend on:

  • The type of lung cancer. Treatment of nonsmall cell lung cancer may be more successful than for small cell lung cancer because nonsmall cell lung cancer usually grows and spreads more slowly and may be detected in the early stages of the disease when treatment is most effective.
  • The stage of the cancer. Treatment in the early stages of disease may be more successful than if the disease is more advanced.
  • The person's age and general health. Research has shown that long-term survival is better for people who:
    • Are able to walk (ambulatory) and move around as compared to people who are not ambulatory.
    • Have not lost more than 10% of their body weight in the 3 to 6 months prior to diagnosis. The greater the weight loss before diagnosis, the worse the long-term prognosis.
  • The success of treatment depends on the type and stage of lung cancer. A combination of therapies may be used for certain types of lung cancer, which may result in better outcomes. Lung cancer treatment may be moderately successful in early-stage disease, but only about 15% of lung cancers are discovered in the early stages.4 Treatment is not very successful if the lung cancer is advanced at the time of diagnosis. The overall 1-year survival rate is about 40%. At 5 years, the survival rate is about 15%.

Who gets lung cancer?

Men are 25% more likely to develop lung cancer than women.

Black men are more likely to develop lung cancer than men of any other racial group.

The average age of people diagnosed with lung cancer is 60. Lung cancer does not usually occur in people under 40 years old.

Fewer men smoke now than in the past so the death rate from lung cancer for men is decreasing. Because the number of women who are smoking has increased, the death rate from lung cancer in women is slowly increasing.

How can I prevent lung cancer?

The most important prevention measure is to not use any tobacco. If you do use tobacco, you can reduce your risk for lung cancer by quitting. For more information, research the topic Quitting Tobacco Use.



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