Lung Cancer

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is an abnormal growth in the tissues of the lung. When you breathe in, air goes down your trachea (windpipe), and into the lungs, where it spreads through tubes called bronchi (air passages). Most lung cancer begins in the cells that line these tubes.

There are two main types of lung cancer:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer.
  • Small cell lung cancer is less common, but spreads quickly to other parts of the body through the blood.

The main cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoke (cigarettes, pipes, or cigars), although not everyone who smokes will get lung cancer. Harmful substances in smoke damage the lung cells. Inhaling ‘second-hand’ smoke from people smoking nearby can also cause lung cancer in some people who do not smoke.

You may also be at risk for lung cancer if you:

  • Are older than 40 years — most people are older than 65 years when they are diagnosed with lung cancer
  • Have contact with some substances such as radon (a radioactive gas), asbestos, arsenic, chromium, nickel and air pollution
  • Have family members who have had lung cancer

Early lung cancer often does not cause symptoms. As the cancer grows, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • A cough that gets worse or does not go away
  • A hoarse voice
  • Breathing trouble such as being short of breath
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Frequent lung infections, such as pneumonia
  • Weight loss without a cause

Other health problems can also cause these symptoms, but you should see your doctor if you experience these symptoms.

There are four main treatments for lung cancer:

  • Chemotherapy to shrink or kill the cancer
  • Radiation therapy (high-energy x-rays) to kill the cancer cells
  • Surgery to remove the tumour and some lymph nodes (glands)
  • Targeted therapy to block the growth and spread of cancer cells