Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, according to the World Health Organisation. In the UK, it's the second most-frequently occurring cancer among men (after prostate cancer), accounting for 1 in 7 new cases, and the third most-frequently diagnosed cancer in women (after breast and bowel cancer) accounting for about 1 in 9 new cases. However, numbers have dropped considerably in recent times, by about 16% in the last decade alone. Dr Patrisha Macnair last medically reviewed this article in September 2012. On this page
* What is lung cancer?
* Lung cancer symptoms
* Lung cancer causes
* Diagnosing lung cancer
* Staging lung cancer
* Lung cancer treatments
* Advice and support
* Print this page
What is lung cancer?
There are several different types of primary lung cancer (cancer which starts in the cells of the lung), which are generally divided into: * Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) : this includes 3 main types of lung cancer - squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma, which behave in a similar way and so are treated similarly. * Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) : these account for about 1 in 8 lung cancers. They tend to spread quite early on to other areas of the body and therefore chemotherapy (which can attack the cancer cells throughout the body) is often recommended to treat it rather than surgery. Nine out of 10 cases of are caused by the effects of tobacco smoking - and while people are living longer with lung cancer, unfortunately the majority of cases cannot be cured. (Many other cancers spread to the lung - these are known as secondary lung cancers and their treatment depends on the original site of the cancer and the type of cells involved.) Top
Lung cancer symptoms
The key symptom of lung cancer is a persistent cough that gradually gets worse. If you have the following, or any other symptoms, you must have them checked by your doctor (but remember, all occur in many conditions other than cancer): * A persistent cough or change in the nature of a long-standing cough. * Shortness of breath.
* Coughing up blood-stained phlegm (sputum); blood is a warning sign that always needs urgent investigation. * Persistent chest pain - a dull ache or sharp pain when you cough or take a deep breath. * Loss of appetite and weight.
* A drop in ability to exercise and general fatigue.
* Lumps or swelling in the neck (caused by swollen lymph nodes). At present, there's no effective screening test for lung cancer. If you have any worrying or new symptoms, tell your GP straight away so you can be investigated promptly or reassured that there's nothing to worry about. Top
Lung cancer causes
As most lung cancer cases are caused by smoking cigarettes, the risk increases with the number and type of cigarettes smoked. Even passive smoking (inhalation of other people's cigarette smoke) can cause a problem, and the longer period over which the patient smokes, the higher the risks. People who have started smoking at a very young age seem to be particularly vulnerable. Only about one in 10 lung cancers occurs in non-smokers. Pipe and cigar smokers have a lower risk than cigarette smokers, but it's still a far greater risk than that of a non-smoker. Some people seem to be genetically predisposed to developing lung cancer, and medical checks in smokers may in future look for these key genes to work out how likely lung cancer is. Some rare types of lung cancer aren't related to smoking. Mesothelioma, which affects the covering of the lung (the pleura), for example, is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. Other causes include exposure to certain chemicals and substances in the workplace, such as uranium, chromium and nickel. These have all been linked to lung cancer but are very rare. Contact your local environmental health officer if you're concerned. If a person stops smoking the risk of lung cancer starts to drop...
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