Lung Cancer Facts from Leaders in Cancer Care

We do not just treat lung cancer — we empower our patients to live their best lives. Below are some important facts about lung cancer that can equip you to take an active role in your care.

Lung Cancer FAQ

What causes lung cancer?

Researchers do not know what causes lung cancer. There are, however, known risk factors that increase one's chances of getting the disease:

  • Smoking and secondhand smoke. Most lung cancers are preventable because they are linked to smoking or second-hand smoke exposure, according to the American Cancer Society. About 80 percent of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking and many others by second-hand smoke. People who smoke and are exposed to radon and asbestos are at a higher risk. Still, some people who smoke may never develop lung cancer, which suggests genetic factors play a role in the development of the disease.
  • Radon exposure or other environmental factors. People who are exposed to radon, air pollution, workplace asbestos, diesel exhaust, uranium, arsenic, beryllium, coal products, cadmium, silica, vinyl chloride, mustard gas, nickel compounds and chloromethyl ethers may develop lung cancer.

Some people who develop lung cancer have no known risk factors, which may suggest the disease develops randomly or because of unknown causes.

Usually, lung cancers in nonsmokers are different from those in smokers. They tend to develop earlier in life and often have different gene mutations. In some cases, gene mutations can be used to guide treatment.

What are the signs and symptoms of lung cancer?

Lung cancer usually does not cause symptoms until it has spread. However, some people with early lung cancer do show symptoms. Going to the doctor at the first sign of symptoms is important — diagnosing cancer in its early stages makes it easier to treat.

Lung cancer symptoms are similar to symptoms caused by other conditions. They still should be treated seriously and an appointment with a doctor should be made.

The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • A persistent or worsening cough
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Chest pain worsened by deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Persistent infections (bronchitis, pneumonia)
  • Wheezing

Should lung cancer spread to other parts of the body, it may cause:

  • Back pain, hip pain, bone pain (cancer spread to the bones)
  • Headache, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, seizures (cancer spread to the brain)
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes on the neck or above the collarbone

What are the different types of lung cancer?

There are three general types of lung cancer:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
  • Lung carcinoid tumors or lung carcinoids

What is non-small cell lung cancer?

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, making up about 80 to 85 percent of all lung cancers. Its subtypes are squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma. Each subtype starts from a different type of lung cell, but they are grouped because their treatment and outlook are similar.

What is small cell lung cancer?

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC), also known as oat cell cancer, makes up about 10 to 15 percent of lung cancers. It grows and spreads faster than NSCLC with about 70 percent of people having cancer spread at the time of diagnosis.

What is metastatic lung cancer?

Metastatic lung cancer is lung cancer that has started to spread. The spreading of lung cancer is usually a gradual process that occurs as cancer cells leave a tumor and travel through the blood and lymph system to other areas of the body, like the lymph nodes and organs.

What is squamous cell lung carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the lung or squamous cell lung cancer is a type of non-small cell lung cancer. SCCs start in the flat cells called squamous cells that line the inside of the lung's airways. SCC tumors are often found in the central part of the lung or the main airway. They are usually caused by smoking.

What is the treatment for lung cancer?

Lung cancer type and how far it has spread dictates treatment.

Patients with non-small cell lung cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or a combination of these treatments.

Patients with small cell lung cancer may be treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

  • Surgery. A surgeon locates and surgically removes cancerous tissue.
  • Chemotherapy. Oral or IV medicines are administered to shrink or kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy. High energy X-rays are used to kill cancer.
  • Targeted therapy. Oral or intravenous (IV) medicines are administered to block receptors that control the growth of cancer cells.

Doctors work together to treat lung cancer. A cancer care team may consist of pulmonologists, surgeons, thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists.

What is thoracic cancer?

Thoracic cancer is cancer that is located in the thoracic cavity or chest. The most commonly known thoracic cancers are lung cancer and esophageal cancer. Less commonly known thoracic cancers are thymus cancer and pleural cancer.

To schedule an appointment with one of New Jersey’s best lung and thoracic cancer specialists, call 844-CANCERNJ or 844-226-2376.




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