Lung cancer is commonly known as a disease of uncontrolled cell growth in the tissue of the lungs.  In later stages, lung cancer typically metastasizes, which means it spreads to tissue outside the lungs, perhaps into other organs or the chest cavity.  Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in men and the second most common in women.  It is responsible for 1.3 million deaths annually.  The most common symptoms of lung cancer include shortness of breath, coughing, coughing up blood and weight loss. 

There are various types of lung cancer, including small cell lung carcinoma and non-small cell lung carcinoma. Lung cancer treatment varies depending upon the type.  Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) may be treatable with surgery while small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) usually responds better to a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.  The most common cause of lung cancer is long-term exposure to tobacco smoke.  The occurrence of lung cancer in nonsmokers, however, account for as many as 20% of lung cancer cases.  These victims have typically developed cancer from a combination of sources, including genetic factors, radon gas, asbestos and air pollution. 

Lung cancer is typically diagnosed initially by a chest x-ray and then a computed tomography (CT scan).  The diagnosis is then confirmed with a biopsy that is usually performed via bronchoscopy or a CT-guided biopsy. The treatment and prognosis for lung cancer depends on the type of cancer, stage of cancer (degree to which it has spread in the lung and other tissue), and the patient’s status  The range of treatments for lung cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and advanced stage treatments by drugs like Avastin and Tarceva.  With early detection and treatment, the five-year survival rate is as high as 49% but the five year survival rate for late-stage lung cancer is reported to be as low as 2%.  

Published November 17, 2011 by