Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women. More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.


Your right lung is divided into three sections (lobes). Your left has two lobes. Air goes into your  lungs through the trachea (windpipe). The trachea divides into tubes called the bronchi. Most lung cancers start in the lining of the bronchi and are thought to develop over a period of many years. Lung cancer may spread to the lymph nodes or other tissues in the chest including the other lung. In many cases, lung cancer may also spread to the bones, brain or liver.

There are two major types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). SCLC tends to spread widely through the body. There are three sub-types of NSCLC that make up 80 percent of lung cancers.


Usually symptoms of lung cancer often do not appear until the disease is in an advanced stage. Some lung cancers are diagnosed early because they are found as a result of tests for other medical conditions. Common signs and symptoms include: a cough that doesn't go away, constant chest pain, shortness of breath/wheezing, swelling of the neck/face, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking
    Cigarette-, cigar-, pipe- and marijuana-smoking is the most important risk for lung cancer. Marijuana contains more tar than cigarettes.
  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke (Secondhand Smoke)
    A nonsmoker who is married to a smoker has a 30 percent greater risk of developing lung cancer than the spouse of a nonsmoker.
  • Radon
    It is an invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that occurs naturally when uranium breaks down.  Studies have shown that the risk of lung cancer may be doubled or even tripled if you have lived for many years in a house built over soil with natural uranium deposits.
  • Asbestos
    Asbestos workers are about seven times more likely to die of lung cancer.
  • Pollution
    In some cities, air pollution may slightly increase the risk of lung cancer.
  • Recurring Inflammation
    TB and some types of pneumonia often leave scars on the lung. Scarring can increase your risk of lung cancer.
  • Personal and Family History
    If you have had lung cancer, you have a higher risk of developing another lung cancer. Brothers, sisters and children of those who have had lung cancer may have a slightly higher risk.
  • Diet
    Some reports indicated that a diet low in fruits and vegetables may increase the chances of getting cancer if exposed to tobacco smoke.
  • Gender
    Some doctors think women who smoke or are exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to have lung cancer.
  • Cancer-causing Agents in the Workplac
    Gasoline and diesel exhaust can increase risk.


American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource. 

These Health Tips are for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.