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Lung Cancer

Happy grandpa.

More people die of lung cancer each year than of breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women.

However, lung cancer is also one of the easiest cancers to prevent. Most cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking. Other possible risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Age: The average age of diagnosis is 70
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop lung cancer than women
  • Race: African American men are more likely to develop lung cancer
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to environmental toxins such as arsenic, asbestos, radon, radiation or radioactive dust

Early diagnosis and treatment for lung cancer are critical for improving survival rates. Our thoracic oncology specialists provide comprehensive care to those with lung cancer. We partner with you in care before, during and after treatment.

Lung cancer overview

Lung cancer starts in the tissue of the lung, usually in the cells that line the airways, invading nearby tissues and forming tumors. Lung cancer can begin anywhere in the lungs and affect any part of the respiratory system.

Initial symptoms of lung cancer can be mild and easily missed, especially in the earliest stages. Because the lungs are large, tumor growth can go unnoticed for long periods of time before getting a correct diagnosis.

Like other cancers, lung cancer can spread (metastasize) to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body, including other organs. Lung cancer that originates in the lungs is called primary lung cancer.

The 2 main types of lung cancer are small cell and nonsmall cell. Doctors stage both types of lung cancer differently.

Nonsmall cell lung cancer

Most cases (about 85%) of lung cancer are nonsmall cell lung cancer. There are 3 types of NSCLC:

  • Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of lung cancer tends to grow toward the center of the lungs.
  • Large cell carcinoma: Pathologists identify this type of lung cancer by its distinctive large, round cells.

When diagnosing NSCLC, doctors categorize cancer into stages based on whether the cancer has spread:

  • Stage 1: Cancer is found only in one lung and hasn’t spread.
  • Stage 2: Cancer has spread beyond the lungs into the nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the middle of the chest. If cancer has stayed on the same side of the lung where it started, it’s called stage 3A. Cancer that’s spread to the lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest or higher than the collar bone is called stage 3B.
  • Stage 4: Cancer cells have spread to both lungs, the area around the lungs or to other organs or different parts of the body.

Small cell lung cancer

Doctors diagnose much fewer people with SCLC than with NSCLC each year. Only 15% of lung cancer cases are small cell. Small cell lung cancer tends to grow faster than nonsmall cell. However, small cell lung cancer often responds better to chemotherapy.

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Start your path today.

Your journey to health starts here. Call 913-588-1227 or request an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.