Lung cancer leading cause of cancer deaths in United States

Among men and women in the United States, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths, killing more people every year than breast, prostate, colon and ovarian cancers combined.

There are two types of lung cancer:

  • Small-cell lung cancer – less common type found mostly in heavy smokers
  • Non-small cell lung cancer – more common type that includes different types of lung cancers

Most lung cancers are caused by smoking. Your risk also increases if you have had long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas, asbestos and other cancer-causes substances. Lung cancer also runs in families so you may be more susceptible if you have a mother, father, sibling or close relative who has or had the disease.

While there are known risk factors for lung cancer, there are people who get the disease who never smoked or had extended exposure to smoke in their lives.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer and how is lung cancer diagnosed?

There are generally no signs or symptoms of lung cancer until the disease has significantly progressed. In the advanced stages, you may experience:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • "Smoker's cough"

If you are asymptomatic (have no symptoms) but you are a smoker or you smoked in the past, you may meet certain requirements for lung cancer screening.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns and options. After a complete physical exam and review of your medical history, your doctor may recommend certain tests, such as a chest X-ray, CT scan, sputum cystology (a test that examines your sputum for cancer cells), or biopsy.

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, your doctor will discuss lung cancer treatment options with you. Treatment depends on your age, health, what stage of lung cancer you have, and other factors.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.