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When abnormal cell growth starts in the lungs, it is called lung cancer. The most common causes of the disease are associated with tobacco use. There are two general types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Symptoms of both may include a persistent cough, shortness of breath, and coughing up blood. Treatment options for the condition include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

An Overview of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a disease in which uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells begins in the lungs. It is, by far, the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The five-year survival rate for the disease is only 15 percent.
Other types of cancers may spread to the lungs from other organs. However, this is not considered lung cancer because it did not start in the lungs. When cancer cells spread from one organ to another, they are called metastases.
The diagnosis of lung cancer brings with it many questions and a need for clear, understandable answers.
Cancer research has led to progress against the disease -- and our knowledge is increasing. Researchers continue to look for better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat lung cancer.

Causes of Lung Cancer

Researchers have discovered several causes of lung cancer, but the most common are related to the use of tobacco.
Causes include:
  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars and pipes
  • Environmental tobacco smoke ("secondhand smoke")
  • Radon
  • Asbestos
  • Pollution
  • Lung diseases.

Types of Lung Cancer

Cancers that begin in the lungs are divided into two major types -- non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer -- depending on how the cells look under a microscope. Each type grows and spreads in different ways and is treated differently.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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