Lung Cancer

[luhng] [kan-ser]

Woman smiling with man wearing a nasal cannula

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Cigarette smoking is the #1 cause of lung cancer, but it also can be caused by using other forms of tobacco like pipes or cigars, breathing secondhand smoke, being exposed to asbestos or radon, and having a family history of lung cancer. Lung cancer symptoms may include coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing up blood. Other illnesses can cause these symptoms, too. If you have any symptoms, talk to your doctor. For help to quit smoking, call 1 (800) QUIT-NOW, text “QUIT” to 47848 from your cell phone, or visit


Key Facts

  • The most important thing you can do to lower your lung cancer risk is to quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. You can get your home tested for radon.
  • Most people don’t have symptoms (like coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath) until their lung cancer is advanced.
  • Yearly lung cancer screening is recommended for adults who have no symptoms but who are at high risk for developing the disease because of their smoking history and age. Lung cancer screening is not a substitute for quitting smoking.


Jackie’s Story

In her podcast, a lung cancer survivor shares her story about diagnosis, treatment, and community support and offers advice for other cancer survivors.

Man smoking cigarette and bothering woman
Avoid Secondhand Smoke

Smoke from other people's cigarettes, pipes, or cigars (secondhand smoke) also causes lung cancer. When a person breathes in secondhand smoke, it is like he or she is smoking.

Test Your Home for Radon

Radon is a gas that comes from rocks and dirt and can get trapped in houses and buildings. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon causes about 20,000 cases of lung cancer each year, making it the second leading cause of lung cancer. EPA recommends testing homes for radon and using proven ways to lower high radon levels.

This animated infographic shows the positive changes the body experiences over time after quitting smoking.

Jackie's Story

Prevention Tips

  • If you smoke, quit. For help, ask your doctor, call 1 (800) QUIT-NOW, or text the word QUIT to 47848 from your mobile phone.
  • Avoid breathing in smoke from other people’s cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.
  • Get your home tested for radon.
  • Be aware that cancer survivors who had radiation therapy to the chest are at higher risk of lung cancer.
  • If you are 50 to 80 years old, and you smoke now or quit within the past 15 years, and you smoked a lot (1 pack a day for 20 years or 2 packs a day for 10 years), ask your doctor if lung cancer screening is right for you.
Page last reviewed: March 9, 2021