lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. It starts when abnormal cells grow out of control in the lung and invade nearby tissues and form tumors. Lung cancer can start anywhere in the lungs and affect any part of the respiratory system.

Most lung cancer is caused by smoking or secondhand smoke, but being exposed to arsenic, asbestos, radioactive dust, or radon can also increase your chances of getting lung cancer.

Lung cancer is not often found early, because the early stages don't usually cause any symptoms. In its advanced stage, cancer may affect how your lungs work, causing coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

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Your doctor will check your symptoms and ask questions about whether you smoke or have been exposed to another person's smoke or to any cancer-causing substances. He or she will also ask about your medical history, including any history of cancer in your family. This information will help your doctor decide how likely it is that you have lung cancer and whether you need tests to be sure.

Lung cancer is usually first found through diagnostic imaging test like a chest X-ray or a CT scan. More tests are done to find out what kind of cancer cells you have and whether they have spread beyond your lung. These tests help your doctor and you find out what stage the cancer is in. The stage is a rating to measure how big the cancer is and how far it has spread.


Treatment for lung cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a mix of all three. It depends on what type of cancer you have and how much it has spread.

Surgery for lung cancer is most effective for early stage, non-small cell lung cancers. Several different types of surgical procedures can be performed, including surgical removal of the tumor and tissue surrounding it, removal of a lobe in the affected lung, or removal of an entire lung. Often, lymph nodes near the lungs will also be surgically removed during these procedures.

Other types of surgical procedures like radiofrequency ablation, cryosurgery or laser therapy may be performed. Chemotherapy and radiation also are treatment options for lung cancer.


Lung cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent because most lung cancer is caused by smoking. So it is important to stop smoking—or to stop being around someone else’s smoke. Even if you have smoked a long time, quitting can lower your chances of getting cancer. If you already have lung cancer, quitting makes your treatment work better and can help you live longer.

Additional Resources

St. Francis Cancer Center

104 Innovation Drive
Greenville, SC 29607


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