Cancer is a disease caused by an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, typically beginning in one small group of cells, then spreading through the blood and lymphatic systems to other parts of the body. Primary lung cancer begins in one or both lungs, while secondary lung cancer starts elsewhere in the body but spreads to the lungs.
Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for the majority of lung cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma, which forms in the lining of the bronchial tubes; adenocarcinoma, which forms in mucus-producing glands; bronchioalveolar carcinoma, which forms near air sacs; and large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma that forms near the surface. Small cell lung cancer begins when small cells quickly divide and form large tumors. Lung carcinoid tumors are very rare, grow slowly, and usually stay confined to one area.
Nearly 400,000 people in the United States are living with lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, which notes 82% of these people are age 60 years or older.
People who smoke cigarettes and those who have been exposed to secondhand smoke, radon, asbestos, and other chemicals, as well as those with a family history of the disease, are at increased risk for developing cancer that begins in the lungs.
In early stages, lung cancer may not produce specific worrisome symptoms. Wheezing, hoarseness, shortness of breath, and chest pain can indicate a wide variety of problems in the lungs. As the disease advances, people may develop a new persistent or chronic cough, cough up blood, feel pain in their bones, lose weight without trying, or develop other signs that indicate cancer may be present. Some experts suggest people at increased risk for lung cancer have annual CT scans or other imaging tests to detect cancer early, when treatment options are most effective.
Each physician at Pulmonary Associates specializes in diagnosing disorders of the lung, including cancer. Our access to the most modern diagnostic technology and imaging methods enables us to partner with surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, and internal medicine specialists to identify the best course of treatment every step of the way for each individual patient.
The American Cancer Society offers information about prevention and early detection of lung cancer.