Lung and Bronchial Cancer

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is cancer that develops in the lungs. Cancer cells grow abnormally to form tumors. As the tumors progress, healthy lung tissue is destroyed.

Lung cancer is common among both men and women. It causes more deaths each year than colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers combined.

What are the different types of lung cancer?

The most common type of lung cancer is non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer spreads more slowly than the other main type of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer can be categorized into three types: adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma. Adenocarcinoma usually develops on the outside of the lungs in the epithelial cells. Squamous cell carcinoma is commonly found in the center of the lung. Large cell carcinoma can develop in any part of the lung and typically spreads more rapidly than other types of non-small cell lung cancer.

The other main type of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer, can be categorized into two types: small cell carcinoma and combined small cell cancer. Small cell lung cancer commonly develops in the center of the chest near the bronchi and quickly spreads, or metastasizes, to other parts of the body. The majority of cases of small cell lung cancer are caused by smoking.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Lung cancer does not typically show signs or symptoms until the disease has progressed. When symptoms do appear, they vary from patient to patient, but commonly include:

  • Development of a cough
  • Changes in an existing chronic cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Frequent lung infections (bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.)
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Bone pain

What are the causes and risk factors of lung cancer?

More than 80% of lung cancer is caused by cigarette smoking. If you currently smoke and are interested in quitting, call your physician or Baptist Cancer Center to learn about smoking cessation.

Other risk factors of lung cancer include:

  • Family history
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to radon
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Exposure to other chemicals and pollutants

If symptoms indicate lung cancer as a possible diagnosis, your physician will recommend a series of diagnostic tests. These tests may include chest x-rays or other imaging tests, tests on sputum, or mucous produced by the lungs and/or a biopsy.

How is lung cancer treated?

Treatment for lung cancer is tailored for each patient. Treatment options depend on many factors, including the type and stage of lung cancer, as well as the patient's age, medical history and overall health.

Treatment commonly includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy or a combination of all of these options.