Lung Cancer

Lung cancer at a glance

  • Smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer. It’s the only form of cancer caused mainly by a lifestyle choice that is under the control of individuals.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women.
  • Other than smoking, other risk factors include chemicals in certain workplaces, asbestos, radon gas, and in some cases, heredity.
  • Lung cancer is easily detected through imaging tests.
  • Symptoms include constant and worsening cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite, recurrent respiratory infections, or shortness of breath.
  • New treatments for lung cancer give hope for survivability.

Because smoking was much more prevalent in the past than it is today, more people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. This is true for both men and women. Though there are some occupational risks for lung cancer, smoking is the leading risk factor, and the good news is that smoking can be avoided. Smoking is a lifestyle choice, and if people don’t smoke their risk of lung cancer is reduced radically.

In 2006 (the most recent year for which statistics are currently available), lung cancer accounted for more deaths than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer combined. In that year,

  • 106,374 men and 90,080 women were diagnosed with lung cancer.
  • 89,243 men and 69,356 women died from lung cancer.

Among men in the United States, lung cancer is the second most common cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native men, and the third most common cancer among Hispanic men. Among women in the United States, lung cancer is the second most common cancer among white, black, and American Indian/Alaska Native women, and the third most common cancer among Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic women.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women and men both in the United States and throughout the world. In 1950, lung cancer accounted for only 3 percent of all female cancer deaths, whereas in 2000 it accounted for 25 percent. The direct reason: Women started smoking more in the 1950s. Lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in 1987.

A total of 1,529,560 new cancer cases and 569,490 deaths from cancer are projected to occur in the United States in 2010. Currently, 1 in 4 deaths in the United States is due to cancer.

Anatomy

LungThe lungs are the primary organs of the respiratory system. The main function of the human respiratory system is to transport oxygen from the atmosphere into the blood, and to expel carbon dioxide from the body. Healthy levels of oxygen are absolutely crucial for the human body, as oxygen gives our cells energy and helps them regenerate.

Each lung is divided into lobes. The right lung, which has three lobes, is slightly larger than the left, which has two. The lungs are housed in the chest cavity, or thoracic cavity, and covered by a protective membrane called the pleura. The diaphragm, the primary muscle involved in respiration, separates the lungs from the abdominal cavity.

What is Lung Cancer?

Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by out-of-control cell growth, and lung cancer occurs when this uncontrolled cell growth begins in one or both lungs. Rather than developing into healthy, normal lung tissue, these abnormal cells continue dividing and form lumps or masses of tissue called tumors. Tumors interfere with the main function of the lung, which is to provide the bloodstream with oxygen to be carried to the entire body. Tumors can be Benign or Malignant.

Benign Tumor

If a tumor stays in one spot and demonstrates limited growth, it is generally considered to be benign. It is rarely a threat to life and usually does not need to be removed.

Malignant Tumor

Malignant tumors or cancerous tumors may be a threat to life. They usually grow back after removal and tend to spread to other parts of the body.

When a tumor spreads to other parts of the body by entering blood vessels or lymph vessels and grows, invading and destroying other healthy tissues, it is said to have metastasized. This process itself is called metastasis.

Learn more about small cell lung cancer >>

Learn more about non-small cell lung cancer>>

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases the chance of developing a disease. Studies have found the following risk factors for lung cancer:

  • Tobacco Smoking
  • Occupational Chemicals
  • Asbestos
  • Radon
  • Heredity
  • Age over 65

If you have symptoms, increased risk factors or have recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, contact us to request an appointment with Diablo Valley Oncology’s physicians.