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Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both
lungs. It's the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States,
killing 160,000 Americans annually.
There are two main types of lung cancer:
1. Small cell carcinoma - Accounts for approximately 25 percent of cases. Can spread rapidly to the lymph nodes and the brain.
2. Non-small cell carcinoma - The most common type. Includes squamous cell, large cell and adenocarcinoma cancers.
Cigarette smoking is by far the number one cause, responsible for 85 to 90
percent of lung cancers. Cigar smoking has also been cited as a risk
factor. Men who smoke are 22 times more likely to develop lung cancer than
nonsmokers, women smokers 12 times more likely. Exposure to radon in the
home and to on-the-job, cancer-causing substances is also associated with
lung cancer. Risk increases after age 45.
There are few symptoms in the early stage. Later, the disease may cause
frequent coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, repeated
bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis, hoarseness, coughing up of excess mucous
and bloody or rust-colored phlegm.
There are three main ways to treat lung cancer:
1. Surgery to remove part or all of the lung
Which treatment is best for you depends on the type of cancer and your
overall health. A combination of the three is often used. Advances in
surgical techniques are currently being investigated. These could allow
surgery on more types of lung cancer, with less trauma to patients.
Researchers are also studying whether certain drugs can help prevent or
treat cancer, including a group known as "retinoids," which have already
shown promise in treating head and neck tumors. Scientists are also trying
to isolate lung cancer genes and develop antibodies that can attack cancer
WebMD terms and conditions.
- Don't smoke, and if you do, stop.
- Avoid second-hand smoke at home and at work.
- Test your home for radon.
- Find out workplace exposure hazards.