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Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cancer that is responsible for most cancer deaths in both men and women around the world. Smoking is the number one cause to lung cancer and tobacco is responsible for 90% of all lung cancer. However, lung cancer takes many years to develop. Doctors refer to packs-years of history to determine the risk of developing lung cancer by determining the amount of cigarette packs per day times the number of smoking years. But the age when the smoking started and how deeply the smoker inhales are also important factors in determining the risk of developing lung cancer. Stopping smoking greatly reduces the risk for lung cancer. Although you do not smoke, passive smoking can also cause lung cancer and approximately 3000 people die each year in the U.S. due to passive smoking.

Cancer in the lungs are divided into two major types. The first one is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and the other one is called small cell lung cancer (SCLC).  These two types of cancers spread and grow in different ways, so it's important to distinguish between these two. NSCLC is the most common lung cancer and is responsible for about 80% of all lung cancers. SCLC is responsible for about 20% and grows very rapidly and are the most aggressive of all lung cancers. Cigarette smoking is related to SCLC and 1% of these tumors occurs in non-smokers. SCLC also spread (aka metastasize) rapidly to other parts of the body and are often discovered after they have spread extensively.

Common symptoms for lung cancer are:

a) Coughing up blood
b) Dull ache or a sharp pain when you cough or take a deep breath
c) Increasing breathlessness
d) Continuing cough that does not get better over time
e) Chest infection that does not get better
f) Loss of weight and appetite.
g) Fatigue


Determining treatment for lung cancer depends on several factors such as your general health, size, location, the extent of the tumor, but also the type of lung cancer NSCLC or SCLC. There may be many different combinations to treat the cancer.

1. Chemotherapy-This is the use of anticancer drugs to kill all the cancerous cells throughout the body.

2. Radiation Therapy-This is the use of high energy rays to kill the cancer cells, which are directed to a limited area.  

3. Surgery-This is another way to remove the cancer. Some patients cannot undergo a surgery for medical reasons and some tumors cannot be removed by surgery because of location and size of it.

4. Photodynamic Therapy-This is a type of laser therapy, where a chemical is injected into the bloodstream and is absorbed by the body cells. This chemical stays in the cancer cells but leaves the normal cells. Thereafter a laser light is aimed at the cancer cells which activates the chemical and thus kills the cancer cells that absorbed the chemical.


Sources of National Cancer Institute Information

Cancer Information Service
Toll-free: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
TTY (for deaf and hard of hearing callers): 1-800-332-8615

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