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What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer, the most common and most deadly type of cancer, originates in the thoracic (chest) cavity, often starting in cells lining the air passages. There are two primary types of lung cancer, and they each grow differently and require different treatments. Non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form, generally grows and spreads slowly. Small cell lung cancer grows more quickly and is more likely to metastasize to other parts of the body.

Primary symptoms of lung cancer such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and bloody mucus may not be apparent until advanced stages, making early detection of paramount importance.

Tobacco smoking remains the primary cause of lung cancer, although anyone, including nonsmokers, can develop the disease from some combination of genetics, radon or asbestos exposure, air pollution or secondhand smoke. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of options.

Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues and then spread to other parts of the body.

Dr. Raja M. Flores, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Normally cells divide in a regulated manner. When cells keep dividing uncontrollably a mass of tissue forms called a tumor. When this happens in the lungs it is called lung cancer. There are two types of lung cancer—"non-small cell cancer" and "small cell cancer." Non-small cell cancers arise from epithelial cells and large cells, and are the most common forms of lung cancer. Small cell lung cancers begin in the nerve cells or hormone-producing cells of the lungs.

Lung cancer is a mass of cells that initiated from a rogue lung-cell that was able to evade the immune system’s checks and balances, allowing for uncontrolled cellular growth and division. Lung cancer is divided into roughly two groups: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These two groups of lung cancers are treated differently. Different types of lung cancers are more aggressive than others. There are other cancers that may spread to the lungs. But, these other cancers are not originally derived from lung tissue.

Lung cancer is a disease that happens when cells in the lungs grow out of control and form a tumor that is malignant. Malignant means cells in the tumor can spread to other parts of the body. There are different types of lung cancer. Some types start in the cells that line the airways. Others start elsewhere in lung tissue.

Dr. Vijay K. Nuthakki, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells which form a mass. This can happen with the cells lining the lung and therefore are called lung cancers. Cancer in the lung can also occur with spread of other cancers to the lung. There are different types of lung cancer and these are distinguished based on their cell type.

Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lung begin to grow out of control, possibly invading nearby tissues or spreading throughout the body. Large collections of cancer cells are called tumors. Cells in any of the tissues in the lung can develop cancer, but most commonly lung cancer comes from the lining of the bronchi.

Dr. Claudia I. Henschke, MD
Diagnostic Radiologist

Lung cancer is caused by abnormal changes to the cells of the lungs; smoking and environmental factors can increase the risk of lung cancer. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells that if untreated leads to death. When the abnormal cells originate in the lung it is called lung cancer.

There are two major types of lung cancer: "non-small cell cancer" and "small cell cancer." Non-small cell cancers arise from epithelial cells and large cells, and are the most common forms of lung cancer. Small cell lung cancers begin in the nerve cells or hormone-producing cells of the lungs.

Lung cancer is an overgrowth of abnormal cells that can spread to other parts of the body and lead to disability and death. Risk factors include smoking and certain environmental exposures.

Dr. Jay M. Lee, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Lung cancer is also known as bronchogenic carcinoma, and refers to cancer that originates in the airways or pulmonary tissue. The vast majority (95 percent) of all lung cancers are classified as either small cell lung cancer (SCLC) or non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Other cell types make up the remaining 5 percent of lung cancers.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.