Lung cancer is the growth of malignant cells in one or both of your lungs. We understand that a diagnosis of lung cancer can be frightening, but we are here to help. Our dedicated team of specialists will work to treat your cancer with precision and care, and with as few side effects as possible.
Lung cancer often takes many years to develop, which is why you may not experience any symptoms until the disease is in an advanced stage. Common symptoms of lung cancer include:
- Intense or persistent coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in your voice or breath sounds
- Reoccurring lung conditions such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Coughing up blood, phlegm or mucus
- Change in the amount or color of phlegm or mucus
- Pain in your shoulder, back or chest
- Unexplained weight loss, or loss of appetite
A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of developing lung cancer. It is possible to develop lung cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing lung cancer. Risk factors for lung cancer include:
Almost all lung cancer is found in people over the age of 40 years, but it is most common in men after the age of 65 years.
African-Americans, both men and women, carry a substantially higher risk of lung cancer than Caucasians.
Nearly 85% of all lung cancers are associated with smoking. Smoking is considered a direct and main cause, especially of small cell cancer. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of years a person has been smoking and the number of cigarettes they have smoked in their life. Smoking includes other forms of tobacco, such as that which is found in pipes and cigars. Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke also contributes to an increased risk of lung cancer.
Occupational and Environmental Exposure
Exposure to lung irritants such as asbestos, wood smoke, burning coal, mine dust, metals and paint increase the risk of lung cancer. Long-term or heavy exposure to radon, a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that seeps into buildings, is also associated with the development of lung cancer. Even air pollutants from the combustion of diesel fuel and other fossil fuels have been linked to lung cancer.
Those with close family members who have had lung cancer carry a higher risk of developing it themselves. This risk is higher if the relative was 60 years old or younger when they developed it.
Medical Conditions and Treatments
Inflammation, irritation and scarring that result from certain medical conditions and treatments can increase your risk of lung cancer. Some examples include:
- Lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis (TB)
- HIV infections suppress the body's immune system, causing lung diseases like pneumonia
- Radiation therapy for a previous lung or breast cancer can affect the cells in your lungs
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia is associated with carcinoid tumors
To determine whether you have lung cancer or not, your doctor will perform one or more of the following tests:
- Physical examination
- Chest x-ray
- Advanced imaging scans, such as CT, PET and MRI
- Lung biopsy
Lung cancer is typically treated using a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. In its early stages, surgery is often a viable option for treating lung cancer. In its advanced stages, lung cancer is usually treated with radiation and chemotherapy, because surgery is no longer an option.
At Great Lakes Cancer Care we think it's important that you understand your cancer, as well as how we treat it. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to ask the best questions-and for us to give you the best answers. View our library of learning materials below to get started.
American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the oldest voluntary health organization in the United States fighting lung disease in all its forms, with special emphasis on asthma, tobacco control and environmental health. The American Lung Association has many programs and strategies for fighting lung disease.