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Lung Cancer

FCIC: Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

Office of Women's Health
Take Time To Care

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women. More women die each year of lung cancer than of breast cancer.

How is lung cancer found?

  • Lung cancer is hard to find in its early stages. Sometimes the disease spreads very quickly. And symptoms often do not appear until the disease is advanced.
  • Most lung cancers are not found until the cancer has spread beyond the lungs. Only about 15 percent are found before the cells have spread to lymph nodes or distant organs.

What FDA-approved methods are used to find (diagnose) lung cancer?

  • Chest x-ray or CT scan to check for spots on the lungs
  • Studying phlegm cells under a microscope. (Phlegm is a thick liquid that can collect in your throat. It is pronounced "flem.")
  • Bronchoscopy. This method uses lighted tubes, which carry air to the lungs, to see if there are tumors or other tissue blocking the airway.

There are two types of lung cancer:

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • About 25 percent of lung cancer cases are small cell lung cancer. The other 75 percent of cases are non-small cell lung cancer.

Stages of lung cancer:

Small Cell

  • Limited stage --The tumor is usually in only one lung and in the lymph nodes on the same side of the chest.
  • Extensive stage --The cancer has spread to the other lung and to lymph nodes on the other side of the chest. Or it has spread to distant organs.

Non-Small Cell

  • Occult Stage: Cancer is found in saliva, but tumors cannot be found in the lungs.
  • Stage 0: There is cancer in only a few layers of cells.
  • Stage 1: The tumor is only in the lung.
  • Stage II: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread to one of these areas:
    • the chest wall or diaphragm near the lung
    • the lymph nodes between the two lungs
    • the lymph nodes on the other side of the chest or in the neck.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Recurrent cancer: is cancer that returns after treatment. It can be either small cell or non-small cell cancer.

What lung cancer treatments are approved by the FDA?

  • Surgery --taking out the cancer in an operation
  • Chemotherapy --using medicine to kill cancer cells
  • Radiation --using high-dose x-rays to kill cancer cells

Treatment may combine two or more of these therapies.

The risks of smoking:

  • Smoking causes 90 percent of lung cancers in men and more than 70 percent in women.
  • The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop lung cancer.

The warning signs of lung cancer:

  • A cough that hangs on and on
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss and/ or loss of appetite
  • Bloody phlegm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • A fever for an unknown reason
  • Recurring infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia

To Learn More:

Food and Drug Administration
FDA's Office of Women's Health

The American Cancer Society
Phone: 1-800-227-2345 (1-800-ACS-2345)

American Lung Association
Phone 1-800-586-4872 (1-800-LUNG-USA)

October 2003

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