Facts About Lung Cancer
- Lung cancer is the number one cause of death from cancer in men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 158,040 deaths from lung cancer this year.
- Approximately 221,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2015.
- Men have about a 1 in 13 chance of developing lung cancer in their lifetime. For women, the lifetime risk is about 1 in 16. These numbers are for both smokers and non-smokers. The lifetime risk is much higher in smokers.
- Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer.
Types of Lung Cancer
There are two main types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. These terms refer to how a cancer looks under the microscope.
- Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer, and accounts for about 80% of cases. There are different types of non-small cell lung cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, bronchioalveolar carcinoma, and large cell undifferentiated carcinoma.
- Small cell lung cancer is less common, and accounts for 20 percent of cases. Although the cells are small, they multiply quickly and can form large tumors that may spread throughout the body.
Treating Lung Cancer
The type of lung cancer treatment given to a patient depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the lung cancer and your overall health. The main treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.
- Stage I NSCLC (small tumor in the middle of the lung) primarily is treated with surgery. If a patient’s overall health does not allow him or her to have surgery, stereotactic body radiation therapy may be an excellent alternative. It is non-invasive and usually is given in one to five treatments.
- Stage II NSCLC (larger tumors, with extension outside of the lung itself or with early involvement of lymph nodes) is treated with surgery, followed by chemotherapy. Stereotactic body radiation therapy has not been well studied for these tumors, and conventional external beam radiation therapy commonly would be recommended for patients who for health reasons cannot undergo surgery.
- Stage III NSCLC (tumor extending into other organs or involvement of lymph nodes in the middle of the chest) can be treated in several different ways. For some patients, initial chemotherapy or chemotherapy and radiation therapy followed by surgery is a reasonable approach. For other patients, definitive chemotherapy and radiation therapy without surgery is preferred.
- Stage IV NSCLC (tumor has spread from the lungs and involves other locations, such as the brain, the bone or the liver) usually is treated with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is used for local control of the tumor and to prevent symptoms such as pain or neurological dysfunction.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) most often is treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
- Limited-stage SCLC is disease confined to the lung. It primarily is treated with simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation to the chest. Because this cancer often involves microscopic tumor deposits in the brain, giving radiation therapy to the brain (called “prophylactic cranial irradiation”) frequently is recommended after treatment to the chest. This step is taken to kill any tiny cancer cells that may have spread to the brain.
- Extensive-stage SCLC is diagnosed when the tumor has spread from the lungs and involves other locations, such as the brain, the bone or the liver. It usually is treated with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is used for local control of the tumor and to prevent symptoms such as pain or neurological dysfunction.
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