Lung cancer is a disease in which the cells of lung tissues grow uncontrollably and form tumors. A tumor is a mass or lump of tissue made of abnormal cells.
Lung cancer is the most lethal of all cancers worldwide, responsible for up to three million deaths annually. More than 90,000 men and 79,000 women are diagnosed each year with cancer of the lungs and bronchi (the air tubes leading to the lungs) in the United States. It occurs most often between the ages of 55 and 65. The number has been declining among men but continues to increase among women. Currently, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women, overshadowing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancers combined. Recent studies indicate that female smokers may be more likely to develop lung cancer than male smokers.
About six out of ten people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed with the disease, and between seven and eight people will die within two years.
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types of lung cancer
Primary lung cancer: There are two major types of primary lung cancer: non-small cell and small cell. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is much more common and is usually associated with a history of smoking. It usually spreads to different parts of the body more slowly than small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is described using four stages including stage 0, where the cancer is to the lining of the air passages, stage I, where the cancer is confined to the lung only, stages II and III, where the cancer is confined to the chest cavity (including the lungs), and stage IV, where the cancer has spread from the chest. Squamous cell carcinoma (a skin cancer), adenocarcinoma (cancer originating in the glands), and large cell carcinoma are three types of non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC), also called oat cell cancer, accounts for less than 20% of all lung cancer. There are several types of small cell lung cancer, including small cell, mixed small cell/large cell, and combined small cell. SCLC is a fast growing type of lung cancer and is almost always caused by smoking. Lung cancer prognosis for SCLC is grim. Limited disease averages a life expectancy of fourteen months with treatment. Prognosis for extensive disease is usually under a year.
Secondary lung cancer:
Secondary lung cancer is when cancer cells break away from the breast (in individuals with breast cancer) and travel through the blood or lymph system to settle in the lungs. This type of spread is called metastases, distant recurrence of the cancer, secondary tumors or secondaries. The cells in the lungs are breast cancer cells. It is not the same as having a cancer that starts in the lungs (primary lung cancer).
There can be benign tumors in the lung that do not metastasize (spread).
Each type of cancer affects different types of cells in the lung and grows and spreads differently, so they are treated differently. Tumors found in the lungs sometimes originate from cancers elsewhere in the body. These tumors are called lung metastases.
Mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the chest and abdominal lining, primarily affects persons who have had occupational exposure to asbestos particles.
Lymph node involvement: The lymphatic system is one of the body's natural defenses against infection. It is made up of organs such as the bone marrow, thymus, and spleen as well as lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands). Lymph nodes occur all over the body and are connected by a network of lymphatic vessels that carry lymph fluid and cellular debris (waste products of metabolism). Lung cancer can spread into the lymph nodes and is known as metastatic lung cancer.