Things You Need to Know About Lung Cancer

Things You Need to Know About Lung Cancer


Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women, excluding skin cancer.  

  • 1 in 17 women and 1 in 15 men will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime. These numbers include people who smoke and people who do not smoke; however, the risk is higher for those who have smoked or smoked in the past.  
  • There will be over 235,000 new lung cancer cases this year and over 130,000 deaths. 
  • Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer deaths, making up almost 25% of deaths. More people die from lung cancer yearly than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.  
  • The number of lung cancer cases is steadily decreasing due not only to people quitting smoking but also due to advances in early detection and treatment.  

What is it? 

Lung cancer occurs in the lungs, the two sponge-like organs in your chest that take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. Your right lung has three sections called lobes. Your left lung has two lobes. Lung cancer typically starts in the cells lining the bronchi (the airway that conducts air into the lungs) and parts of the lung, such as the alveoli (the air sacs) or the bronchioles (branches attached to the alveoli).  

There are two main types of lung cancer, Small Cell Lung Cancer and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. SCLC is far less common, making up 13% of lung cancers, while NSCLC makes up 84% of lung cancer patients. 

Who does it affect? 

Lung cancer most commonly occurs in older people, 65 years and above, with the average age of diagnosis being 70. Though a smaller amount, people can still be diagnosed with lung cancer 45 years or younger. Statistics show that black men are 12% more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer than white men, while black women are 16% less likely to be diagnosed than white women. Lung cancer mainly affects those who did or currently do smoke, with 80% of lung cancers attributed to smoking.  

Signs and Symptoms 

Signs or symptoms you might experience include: 

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse 
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored spit 
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing 
  • Hoarseness 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Feeling tired or weak 
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back 
  • New onset of wheezing 

There are also a separate set of symptoms that you may experience if the lung cancer has spread. Mistaken symptoms often lead to delayed diagnosis so if you have possible signs or symptoms of lung cancer, see your doctor immediately. 

What about prevention? 

Early detection and treatment have proven to be powerful in the battle against lung cancer. Lung cancer found at an earlier stage is more likely to be treated successfully. Despite lung cancer’s very serious prognosis, some people with earlier-stage cancers are cured. Lung cancers can be found by regular screening; however, most lung cancers are found because they cause problems. The actual diagnosis of lung cancer is made by looking at a sample of lung cells in the lab.  

What are treatment options? 

As with most other cancers, the treatment plan for lung cancer should be personalized to a person’s specific diagnosis. Each long cancer is treated differently based on many factors such as lung function, stage of cancer, type of cancer, or location of cancer. As previously stated, SCLC and NSCLC are treated differently; however, common treatments for both main types include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, palliative procedures, and surgery. Your healthcare team will walk you through each step of your lung cancer journey including treatment information, prognosis, and forms of support throughout your journey.