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About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women.

Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably. Early lung cancer seldom causes symptoms; consequently, only about 15% of lung cancer cases are caught in this stage when the cancer is most treatable. In later stages, lung cancer can interfere with lung function. Cells may break away from the tumor and spread (metastasize) to other chest tissue or organs. When lung cancer is found in its earliest stages, chances for cure and long-term survival are much greater.

Facts About Lung Cancer

Following are some facts about lung cancer:

  • Approximately 180,000 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed each year, with less than 12% of patients cured, sadly nearly 85% of patient die within 5 years.
  • The overall 5-year survival rate of 15% is low because the stage of lung cancer is often advanced at the time of diagnosis.
  • Lung cancer accounts for more deaths each year than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer combined.

Risk Factors

The link between smoking and lung cancer is certain. Smoking is the cause of almost 90% of lung cancer cases, making it the greatest risk factor in developing lung cancer. The longer a person has smoked and the more cigarettes smoked per day, the higher the risk.  Some risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Tobacco use – smoking or chewing
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, including arsenic, asbestos, radioactive dust, and radon
  • Radiation exposure from occupational, medical, or environmental sources
  • Personal or family history of lung cancer
  • History of tuberculosis

Reducing Your Risk

If a person quits smoking before lung cancer has developed, the lungs will slowly return to normal. Smoking cessation at any age reduces the risk of lung cancer; and, the sooner the better.  Some people who develop lung cancer have no known risk factors, so it is impossible to prevent all cases of lung cancer. However, here are some ways you can reduce your risk:

  • Stop using tobacco products (smoking or chewing)
  • Minimize exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Eat a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Sometimes no symptoms exist during the early stages of lung cancer, which explains why only about 15 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed in the early stages.  Symptoms of advanced lung cancer include:

  • New cough or a cough that won’t go away
  • Constant chest, shoulder or back pain that won’t go away and gets worse during deep breathing
  • New wheezing (whistling noise during breathing)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing up blood or bloody mucous
  • Swelling in the neck and face
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Increasing fatigue and weakness
  • Recurring respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis
  • Abnormal bulging of the fingernails and toenails

Many of these symptoms can also occur with other illnesses. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk with your primary care doctor to determine the cause.

Imaging Exams for Detecting Lung Cancer

Lung cancer often spreads beyond the lungs before it causes symptoms. So, if you are at risk of developing lung cancer, it is important to get screened so any abnormalities can be detected early.  A Lung Cancer Screening is a very low radiation CT scan that allows a radiologist to see abnormalities in the lungs. CT scans are far superior to chest x-rays in finding small and early lung cancers, hopefully increasing the chance for cure and long-term survival.

Radiology Procedures for Treating Lung Cancer

Radiofrequency (heating), cryoablation (freezing), microwave ablation (cooking) ablation are non-surgical ways to shrink tumors. Imaging techniques are used to guide a probe into the tumor, where energy is applied directly to the tumor site to destroy the diseased tissue.

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