Lung Cancer 101

Lung Cancer 101

Lung cancer is ranked number one in Maine for cancer related deaths.

Lung cancer begins in the lungs and may spread to lymph nodes or other organs in the body, such as the brain. Cancer from other organs also may spread to the lungs. When cancer cells spread from one organ to another, they are called metastases.

Lung cancers usually are grouped into two main types called small cell and non-small cell. These types of lung cancer grow differently and are treated differently. Non-small cell lung cancer is more common than small cell lung cancer.

What are the risk factors for lung cancer?

  • Smoking (the number one risk factor for lung cancer – in the US it is linked to about 80-90% of lung cancer deaths)
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Radon
  • Personal or family history of lung cancer
  • Diet

What are the symptoms?

Different people have different symptoms for lung cancer. Some people have symptoms related to the lungs. Some people whose lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized) have symptoms specific to that part of the body. Some people just have general symptoms of not feeling well. Most people with lung cancer don't have symptoms until the cancer is advanced. Lung cancer symptoms may include—

  • Coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Feeling very tired all the time.
  • Weight loss with no known cause.

What is the screening?

The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan). Screening is recommended only for adults who have no symptoms but are at high risk.

Screening means testing for a disease when there are no symptoms or history of that disease. Doctors recommend a screening test to find a disease early, when treatment may work better.

The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). In this test, an X-ray machine scans the body and uses low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of the lungs.

Who Should Be Screened?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends yearly lung cancer screening with Low-Dose Computer Tomography for people who—

  • Have a history of heavy smoking, and
  • Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and
  • Are between 55 and 80 years old.

Heavy smoking means a smoking history of 30 pack years or more. A pack year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. For example, a person could have a 30 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

Lung Cancer
Tobacco