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 and 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.

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.

Medical illustration of the lungs
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
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.
Page last reviewed: September 22, 2020