The leading cancer death among both men and women, lung cancer is broken down into two main categories: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). According to the American Cancer Society, NSCLC makes up roughly 85 to 90 percent of lung cancer cases. The most common form of NSCLC is squamous cell carcinoma, which is associated with smoking. Adenocarcinoma is another type of NSCLC and is the most common lung cancer among non-smokers. SCLC is extremely rare among non-smokers and typically spreads quickly. This type of lung cancer represents about 10 to 15 percent of all cases.
Smoking significantly increases the risk of getting the disease. In fact, the CDC reports that smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer when compared to non-smokers. What’s more is that exposure to secondhand smoke contributes to about 3,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States every year, according to the CDC. Aside from smoking, exposure to certain toxins is also thought to increase the risk. Radon, asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust and chromium are all linked to lung cancer. People with a family history of the disease are at an increased risk, as well.
Symptoms and treatment
Symptoms of lung cancer vary from case to case. However, typical symptoms include chronic, nagging coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, recurrent lung issues (like pneumonia), coughing up blood, chest/back/shoulder pain and harsh breathing sounds. In terms of treatment, some patients may undergo surgery to remove cancerous tumors. This is ideal in cases where the cancer is caught early. Chemotherapy and radiation are also common practice. Targeted therapy is another approach that’s thought to be less damaging to a person’s healthy cells. These therapies work by attacking the way in which cancer cells divide and proliferate. According to the American Lung Association, destroying cancer cells through ablation therapy is also taking shape.