Lung cancer occurs when cells displaying uncontrolled growth, invasion, and/or metastasis arise in the tissues of the lungs. Learn about lung cancer symptoms, the stages of lung cancer, lung cancer treatment and mesothelioma. You can also check out the Lung Cancer Alliance for more info.
The common forms of lung cancer are:
NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER (NSCLC)
- Adenocarcinoma: typically arises in the mucus-producing glands of the lungs. Adenocarcinoma is the most common form of lung cancer in women and nonsmokers. It’s tendency to metastasize beyond the tissues of the lungs makes it a difficult disease to diagnose early.
- Large Cell Carcinomas: identifies a group of lung cancers that are characterized by the presence of anomalous, large cells that arise in the lungs’ outer edges. It is the most rare form of non-small cell lung cancer.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: is the leading cause of lung cancer diagnoses among men and smokers. Fortunately, this form of lung cancer is a strong candidate for early detection because its cells can be observed in a simple mucus sample. Furthermore, squamous cell carcinoma spreads slowly; thus, it is the most curable form of lung cancer.
SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER (SCLC)
Small cell lung cancer, also known as oat-cell cancer, represents about 20% of all lung cancer diagnoses. This disease almost always develops in smokers. Under a microscope, its cells resemble oat grains. Although these cells are “small”, hence the name, they reproduce quickly, forming large tumors. SCLC is the most aggressive form of lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Facts and Statistics
- Around the world, lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in both men and women.
- In the United States, lung cancer is responsible for an estimated 172,770 new cases annually.
- Lung cancer is a relatively recent phenomenon. Diagnoses began escalating drastically in the 1930s as a result of increased tobacco use.
- More women die of lung cancer than of breast cancer.
Lung Cancer Risk Factors
Lung cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Its most common risk factors are the effects of lifestyle choices that can be altered through awareness, will power, and community. Certain inherited risk factors, however, cannot be controlled:
- Tobacco Use: The leading cause of lung cancer is the inhalation of tobacco smoke. If you are a smoker, talk to your doctor about medications, therapies, social networks, and other options to help you quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
- Secondhand Smoke: If you are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, your lung cancer risk is elevated.
- Gender: For unknown reasons, female smokers and non-smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer than male smokers and non-smokers.
- Family History: If you have a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with the disease, your lung cancer risk is elevated.
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Studies have established a link between immoderate alcohol consumption (more than 1 or 2 drinks per day) and lung cancer development.
- Chemical Exposure: If your job exposes you to arsenic, asbestos, chromium, nickel, and/or tar soot, you have an increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Prognosis
Lung cancer is an extremely deadly disease. Its aggressive behavior and a lack of research funding have resulted in an overall poor prognosis for people diagnosed with lung cancer. Five-year survival rates are as follows:
- Adenocarcinoma: 17%
- Large Cell Carcinoma: 11%
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: 15%
- Small Cell Lung Cancers: 5%
Lung Cancer Prevention
- Quit Smoking or Don’t Start: If you’re a smoker, talk to your healthcare provider about quitting. Parents, talk to your children about the dangers of tobacco. Most people start smoking in their teens. Your children need to be equipped to handle smoking peer pressure at an early age.
- Avoid Secondhand Smoke and/or Workplace Carcinogen Exposure: In the U.S., employers are required to tell their employees about any and all dangerous chemicals that they might be exposed to in the workplace. If your workplaces exposes you to secondhand smoke and/or other harmful; carcinogens (automobile exhaust, fumes from heavy machinery, etc.), take steps to minimize your lung cancer risk. Wear a mask, if possible, and talk to your employer about safety measures that will reduce your inhalation of carcinogens.
- Healthy Diet: Consume a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid meats that are high in nitrates, such as pork and many canned meats.
- Consume Alcohol in Moderation: Women should consume no more than one alcoholic beverage a day. Men should consume no more than two.
- Regular Exercise: Develop an exercise routine that complements your body type and lifestyle. Nurturing your body with good food and frequent exercise is the best way to prevent the development of any cancer.
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