Lung Cancer


Image Caption : Healthy Lung and Lung Cancer : Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and between 22,000-70,000 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers in the US per year. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in men and the second most common in women. It is no coincidence that over 90% of lung cancer patients are smokers. Normally, the little hairs (cilia) and mucus that line the respiratory track are effective at preventing damaging or abrasive materials from making it into the lungs. The lung on the left side of this image is healthy and has all its natural biological barriers intact. Tobacco smoke destroys the precious cilia so that these protective structures are no longer on the job. Harmful irritants enter the respiratory tract, triggering mucus production but without the cilia, mucus is not able to mobilize along the respiratory tract and is unable to leave the body. Piles of mucus containing trapped inhaled materials can lead to serious lung diseases including cancer. The lung pictured on the right side of the image has developed the hollowed out spaces characteristic of squamous cell carcinoma.

Lung Cancer

Also called: Bronchogenic carcinoma

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. It is a leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes most lung cancers. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk of lung cancer. High levels of pollution, radiation and asbestos exposure may also increase risk.

Common symptoms of lung cancer include

  • A cough that doesn't go away and gets worse over time
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
  • Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Fatigue

Doctors diagnose lung cancer using a physical exam, imaging, and lab tests. Treatment depends on the type, stage, and how advanced it is. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

NIH: National Cancer Institute


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