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.
- Early detection and new treatments for lung cancer give hope for survivability.
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 is a lifestyle choice, and if people don’t smoke their risk of lung cancer is reduced radically.
An estimated 221,200 new cases of lung cancer are expected in 2015, accounting for about 13% of all cancer diagnoses.
The incidence rate has been declining since the mid-1980s in men, but only since the mid-2000s in 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 but grew to 25 percent in 2000. 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.
The 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.
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 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.
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
- Age over 65