Lung Cancer Home > What Is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is a disease when abnormal cells start growing in the lung tissue. With a five-year survival rate of only 15 percent, this is the number one cause of cancer death in the United States. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Understanding Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that begins in the lung tissue. It is the primary cause of cancer death in the United States, with a five-year survival rate of only 15 percent.
 
Other types of cancers may spread to the lungs from other organs. However, these are not considered lung cancers because they did not start in the lungs. When cancer cells spread from one organ to another, they are called metastases.
 
Research has led to many advances in the battle against lung cancer. Still, researchers continue to look for better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat the disease.
 

What Are the Different Types?

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.
 
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer is much more common than small cell lung cancer, generally growing and spreading more slowly. There are three main types, and they are named for the type of cells in which the cancer develops:
 
 
Small Cell Lung Cancer
Small cell lung cancer grows more quickly and is more likely to spread to other organs in the body.
 
(Click Types of Lung Cancer for more information.)
  
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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