What is Lung Cancer

When cells in the lungs start to grow out of control it is called lung cancer. The cancer may spread from the lungs to the lymph nodes and also to other parts of the body. But cancer may also begin in other organs and spread to the lungs.

Lung cancer is categorized as either small cell and non-small cell cancer:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common form of lung cancer and occurs in 80% of all lung cancer cases. It is a slower growing type of cancer than Small Cell Lung Cancer.
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) occurs mostly in smokers although non-smokers can get it too. It is an aggressive and fast-growing cancer.

Who gets lung cancer?

By far, the single biggest risk for lung cancer is smoking. Other risk factors include:

  • A family history of lung cancer
  • Exposure to radon, asbestos, arsenic chromium, beryllium, nickel, soot, or tar
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Exposure to radiation therapy
  • Pollution

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

A patient who develops lung cancer may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent lung infections
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • A persistent cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue


If the oncologist suspects lung cancer in a patient, the first step is usually an X-ray followed by a CT scan. The doctor may also do a blood test to check on the patient’s general state of health and a lung function test, called a spirometer, to measure how much air the lungs can hold while full and while empty.

If the patient has a cough, the sputum may be examined under a microscope which could reveal cancerous cells.

The oncologist may perform a biopsy in which a sample of lung tissue is extracted and sent for testing, to confirm the presence of cancerous cells.


Lung cancer treatment can involve surgery to remove a section of lung containing the cancerous cells or the entire lung can be removed if the cancer is widespread within the organ. Surgery may be followed by a course of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Targeted cancer therapy and immunotherapy are other common forms of treatment to treat lung cancer.