Lung Cancer Facts and Information | IASLC

Lung Cancer Information

Survivors, patients, caregivers and advocates play an important role in advancing the field of thoracic cancers. And as a result, we have seen enormous progress in the detection, research and treatment of lung cancer.

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is a term used to describe a growth of abnormal cells inside the lung. These cells divide and grow at a much quicker rate than normal cells. The cancerous cells stick together to form a cluster and this abnormal cluster of cells is called a tumor.

If the cancer cells first started growing in the lungs, the tumor is called a primary lung tumor. However, if the lung cancer cells break off and travel through the blood vessels they may latch on to and start to grow in other parts of the body, like the bones. This new cancer growth is called a metastasis or secondary tumor.

There are two different types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which accounts for 85% of the cases, and small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer can further be classified by histology, or how the cells and tissue look under a microscope. The major subtypes of NSCLC are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is the most common, representing about 40 percent, whereas squamous cell carcinoma represents about 30%.

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Early Symptoms

  • Coughing, especially if it persists or becomes intense
  • Pain in the chest, shoulder, or back unrelated to pain from coughing
  • A change in color or volume of sputum, saliva and mucus that is coughed up from the respiratory tract
  • Shortness of breath
  • Changes or hoarseness in your voice 
  • Harsh sounds with each breath (stridor)
  • Recurrent lung problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Coughing up phlegm or mucus, especially if it is tinged with blood
  • Coughing up blood
  • Pain or aching in your chest, shoulder, back or arm

 

 

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  Additional Thoracic Cancers

Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive form of cancer that has been linked to asbestos exposure. It affects the thin, protective lining (called the mesothelium) of the lungs, heart and abdomen.

A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos was widely used in construction and manufacturing and has numerous other commercial applications worldwide. It can take between 20 and 40 years following exposure to asbestos for symptoms to appear.

Mesothelioma is divided into different types based on the part of the mesothelium that's affected. The most common form is pleural mesothelioma, when the cancer is found in the tissue that surrounds the lungs. Rarer types of the disease include pericardial mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma, which affect the tissue around the heart and in the abdomen.

Pleural mesothelioma causes signs and symptoms that may include:

  • Chest pain under the rib cage
  • Painful coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest
  • Unexplained weight loss

Peritoneal mesothelioma causes signs and symptoms that may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Unexplained weight loss

Doctors use a physical exam, imaging tests, blood and biomarker tests and biopsies to diagnose mesothelioma. The standard treatment therapies include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Treatment options are determined by the patient’s age and overall health, as well as the cancer stage and type.

Thymic Cancers are diseases that occur when malignant cells form on the outside surface of the thymus. The thymus is a small organ that lies in the chest underneath the breastbone.

Different types of tumors can form in the thymus, including thymomas and thymic carcinomas. The tumor cells in a thymoma grow slowly and rarely spread beyond the thymus. Thymic carcinomas grow more quickly and usually spread to other parts of the body before the cancer is detected. Thymic carcinomas are more difficult to treat than thymomas.

Signs and symptoms of thymoma and thymic carcinoma include:

  • A nagging, persistent cough
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing

Factors that may affect patient outcomes include:

  • The stage of the disease
  • The type of cancer cell
  • Whether the tumor can be removed by surgery
  • The patient's general health

There are a variety of treatment options for thymic cancers, including:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormone therapy

Esophageal Cancer is a cancer that affects the esophagus, the hollow tube that connects your throat to your stomach.

Esophageal cancer typically begins in the cells on the inside of the esophagus, although it can occur anywhere along the esophagus. More men than women get esophageal cancer, and it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

Some esophageal cancer cases may be attributed to tobacco and alcohol use, nutritional habits and obesity.

Esophageal Cancer causes signs and symptoms that may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Indigestion or heart burn
  • Coughing or hoarseness

Esophageal Cancer is classified according to the type of cells involved and include:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Other rare types

The treatment that esophageal cancer patients receive depends on the type of cancer cells, the cancer's stage, one's overall health and the patient's treatment preferences. Treatment options include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery.

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