Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lung, often in the branching tube-like airways called the bronchi. The major types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Within non-small cell lung cancer, there are sub-types, including large-cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma. Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lung develop mutations that cause the cells to divide rapidly and resist death. Tumors may result.
Signs of lung cancer include a frequent raspy cough, hacking, wheeziness, hoarseness, chest pain, shortness of breath, bloody mucus, difficulty swallowing, recurring lung infections, neck and face swelling, body pain, headaches, fever, weakness, weight loss, and loss of appetite.
Most lung cancers are caused by smoking. Other risk factors include inhaling second-hand smoke; asbestos, radon, and uranium dust exposure; a personal history of lung disease or infection; and a family history of lung cancer. There is some evidence that a diet high in fat and cholesterol may increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
Several tests are used to diagnose lung cancer. In a procedure called a bronchoscopy, a doctor places a narrow tube with a camera down the nose and air passages to view the lung. A biopsy can then collect and analyze lung tissue to check for cancer cells. Blood tests, X-ray imaging, computed tomography (CT) scans, PET scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also be used in diagnosis. Fluid may be removed from the lung with a needle and tested for cancer cells in a procedure called thoracentesis.
Treatment for lung cancer often involves surgical removal of parts of the lung. Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may also be used. Cancer pain medication can help alleviate symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are available for more resources and information.