Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Lung Cancer

Cancer Types - Lung Cancer

Illustration of  the anatomy of the respiratory system, adult
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What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is cancer that usually starts in the lining of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs), but can also begin in other areas of the respiratory system, including the trachea, bronchioles, or alveoli. It is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. In 2012, about 226,120 new cases of lung cancer are expected, according to the American Cancer Society.

Lung cancers are believed to develop over a period of many years.

Nearly all lung cancers are carcinomas, a cancer that begins in the lining or covering tissues of an organ. The tumor cells of each type of lung cancer grow and spread differently, and each type requires different treatment.

Lung cancers are generally divided into two types:

It is important to find out what kind of lung cancer a person has. The different types of carcinomas, involving different regions of the lung, may cause different symptoms and are treated differently.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

The following are the most common symptoms for lung cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Lung cancer usually does not cause symptoms when it first develops, but symptoms often become present after the tumor begins growing. A cough is the most common symptom of lung cancer. Other symptoms include:

Like many other cancers, lung cancer can cause:

Other symptoms can be caused by substances made by lung cancer cells, which is referred to as a paraneoplastic syndrome. For example, certain lung cancer cells produce a substance that causes a sharp drop in the level of sodium in the blood, which can cause many symptoms, including confusion and sometimes even coma.

None of these symptoms is a sure sign of lung cancer. Only a doctor can tell whether a patient's symptoms are caused by cancer or by another problem. Consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

What are the risk factors for lung cancer?

A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Several risk factors make a person more likely to develop lung cancer:

Additional risk factors include:

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking or diet, family history, or many other things. Different diseases, including cancers, have different risk factors.

Although these factors can increase a person's risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop the disease, while others develop disease and have no known risk factors.

Knowing your risk factors for any disease can help guide you to the appropriate actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history to check for risk factors and symptoms, and a physical examination to provide other information about signs of lung cancer and other health problems, procedures used to diagnose lung cancer (or to help determine if it has spread) may include:

Other tests and procedures may be used as well.

Treatment for lung cancer

Specific treatment for lung cancer will be determined by your doctor based on:

Depending on its type and stage, lung cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy or other medications, radiation therapy, local treatments such as laser therapy, or a combination of treatments. Combination treatment or multimodality treatment refers to having more than one type of treatment.

Treatment for lung cancer includes one or more of the following:

There are specific names for the order in which treatment is given. Neoadjuvant treatment refers to having radiation or chemotherapy before surgery. Having one or both of these before surgery may help shrink the tumor, as a smaller tumor is easier to take out in surgery.

Chemotherapy or radiation soon after surgery is called adjuvant treatment. The goal of adjuvant treatment is to kill any cancer cells that may be left after the surgery. Even if there is no sign of cancer cells, your doctor may suggest adjuvant treatment, as it may lower the risk that the cancer will come back or spread.

Clinical trials are being conducted on prevention and treatment options for lung cancer, including photodynamic therapy and chemoprevention.

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