Basic Information About Lung Cancer

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the lungs, it is called lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. Not counting some kinds of skin cancer, lung cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States. After increasing for decades, lung cancer rates are decreasing nationally, as fewer people smoke cigarettes and as lung cancer treatments improve. People with lung cancer are living longer after their diagnosis because more cases are found early, when treatment works best.

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer. Lung cancer also can be caused by using other types of tobacco (such as pipes or cigars), breathing secondhand smoke, being exposed to substances such as asbestos or radon at home or work, and having a family history of lung cancer.

A medical illustration of the respiratory system, showing the lungs, bronchi, trachea, larynx, pharynx, and nasal cavity

When cancer starts in the lungs, it is called lung cancer. Lung cancers usually are grouped into two main types called small cell and non-small cell.

Photo of cigarette smoke

Research has found several risk factors that may increase your chances of getting lung cancer.

Photo of a woman coughing

Different people have different symptoms for lung cancer. Most people with lung cancer don’t have symptoms until the cancer is advanced.

Photo of a doctor breaking a cigarette

To lower your risk of getting lung cancer, don’t smoke, avoid secondhand smoke, and get your home tested for radon.

Photo of a man receiving a CT scan

Lung cancer screening is recommended only for adults who have no symptoms but who are at high risk for developing the disease because of their smoking history and age.

Photo of a man in a hospital talking to his doctor and nurse

Lung cancer is treated in several ways, depending on the type of lung cancer and how far it has spread. People with non-small cell lung cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments. People with small cell lung cancer are usually treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.