What Is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is a life-threatening cancer that forms when cells in lung tissue mutate and divide at out-of-control rates. Lung cancer can be deadly if tumors overwhelm the body and cause major organs to shut down.
You could develop lung cancer if you breathe in cancer-causing substances like asbestos, smoke, or radon. Other factors (like a family history of asbestos exposure, lung cancer, or pre-existing health problems) can also put you at risk.
Lung cancer is very dangerous, but there is hope. You may be able to beat lung cancer with treatment.
You also could qualify for financial compensation to pay for asbestos lung cancer treatments and other expenses. Get started right now with a free case review.
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Causes of Lung Cancer
Asbestos is a cancer-causing mineral made up of tiny fibers. It was used in thousands of products between the 1930s and early 1980s since it was so durable.
However, if you work with asbestos-containing products, microscopic asbestos fibers can fly into the air. If you inhale the fibers, they can get stuck in your lungs for decades and eventually cause cancer.
Over 27 million people were exposed to asbestos before 1980 as makers of asbestos-based products hid the health risks for decades. Thousands of people who were exposed to asbestos develop diseases like lung cancer each year.
You can get compensation from manufacturers if you worked around asbestos and now have lung cancer or another asbestos-related disease. Contact our team now to get started.
Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer. The smoke from cigarettes and other tobacco products contains thousands of toxins.
Your lungs might be able to clear away these toxins at first. However, toxic particles can be left behind if you smoke regularly. These toxins can damage the cells in the lungs and cause them to mutate into cancerous ones.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 80-90% of all lung cancer deaths in the United States are caused by cigarette smoking.
Secondhand smoke can also cause lung cancer. You could be exposed to secondhand smoke if you lived with someone who regularly smoked.
Over 7,300 people die every year from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke, according to the American Lung Association (ALA).
Radon exposure is the second-most common cause of lung cancer. Radon is a gas that naturally forms as radioactive materials found in the Earth break down.
Radon gas can come up through the soil in the ground and get stuck in your home. It has no color or odor, so you won’t notice it unless you have a detection kit.
Radon gas will disperse (go away), but in doing so, it releases microscopic particles. If you breathe in the particles, they can get stuck in your lungs and cause cancer.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that radon is the main cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Furthermore, the ACS found that those who smoke cigarettes and were exposed to radon have a greater risk of lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Risk Factors
Many factors could put you at risk of lung cancer besides smoking, asbestos, and radon.
These lung cancer risk factors include:
- Air pollution: You can develop lung cancer if the air outside is filled with toxic chemicals. Air pollution is becoming a bigger problem as vehicles and power plants around the world continue to dump cancer-causing substances into the air.
- Family history: You’re at a higher risk if family members had lung cancer.
- HIV infections: HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) weakens the body’s ability to fight cancer. Those with HIV are at a higher risk of lung cancer even if they don’t smoke.
- Pre-existing lung diseases: A report from the medical journal Medicine found that those with other lung-related illnesses like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and tuberculosis may be at greater risk of lung cancer.
Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about your lung cancer risk. Doctors may recommend regular lung cancer screenings if you’re at a high risk of lung cancer.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer usually doesn’t cause any symptoms until it has started to spread through your body.
Symptoms of lung cancer include:
- A cough that won’t go away, worsening over time
- Blood in the sputum (mucus that patients cough up)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
The ACS notes that more symptoms can appear as the cancer spreads into other parts of the body. Symptoms of widespread lung cancer include bone pain, headache, and swelling of the lymph nodes.
See a doctor right away if you have symptoms of lung cancer. Doctors can then take steps to diagnose and treat these symptoms.
Were you exposed to asbestos and now have lung cancer? Call (877) 446-5767 for help now. You could qualify for financial compensation.
Lung Cancer Diagnosis
Doctors use several tests to diagnose lung cancer.
First, your doctor will look at your medical history. They may want to know about your smoking habits, if you worked around cancer-causing substances like asbestos, and if any family members had lung cancer. They’ll also perform a physical exam to check for possible lung cancer symptoms.
From there, a doctor will order imaging tests to look in your lungs for tumors or other growths that could be cancerous.
Lung cancer imaging tests include:
- Chest X-ray: An X-ray uses a low dose of radiation to take a picture of the inside of your lungs. This is usually the first scan done by doctors if they think you have lung cancer, according to the ACS.
- CT (computed tomography) scan: CT scans are like X-rays that take more pictures. The Mayo Clinic notes that CT scans can often show lung tumors that weren’t found on a normal X-ray.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan: An MRI may be used if doctors think lung cancer has spread to your spine or brain, according to the ACS. MRIs use radio waves to make images.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan: With this test, you’ll be injected with a very low dose of radioactive material. It will spread into your body and allow doctors to find tumors that could be cancerous.
If your doctors think you have lung cancer after taking these imaging scans, they will then order a biopsy. A biopsy is a test in which doctors remove a tiny sample of fluid or tissue from your body and look at it under a microscope. They can then see what type of cancer you have (if any).
A biopsy is the only way to diagnose lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Screenings
The Mayo Clinic recommends getting tested for lung cancer each year if you’re at risk but don’t have symptoms. This is known as a lung cancer screening.
Doctors will perform a CT scan of your lungs to check for any possible signs of cancer during the screening.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests getting screened if:
- You smoked 1 or more packs of cigarettes per day for 20+ years
- You currently smoke
- You quit smoking less than 15 years ago
- You’re between the ages of 50 and 80
A screening can help doctors diagnose cases of lung cancer before symptoms appear. This is very important as the cancer usually hasn’t spread far at that point, making it easier to treat.
Types of Lung Cancer
There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Both types usually start in the bronchi (tubes that allow air to enter the lungs).
The type you’ll have depends on the lung cancer cells that make up the tumors in your body. Doctors can see what type you have when looking at a biopsy sample.
You also could have asbestos-related lung cancer if you worked with asbestos decades ago and are now sick.
Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
SCLC is a less common and more aggressive type of lung cancer, making up 10-15% of lung cancer cases.
SCLC cells are smaller than NSCLC cells and typically spread quickly through the body, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
NSCLC is the most common lung cancer type. It makes up 80-85% of all lung cancer cases, according to the ACS.
NSCLC is hard to diagnose before it spreads since symptoms could be mistaken for less serious illnesses. According to Yale Medicine, 80% of NSCLC patients are diagnosed with widespread cancer.
Asbestos Lung Cancer
You could develop SCLC or NSCLC due to asbestos exposure. In these cases, your cancer could be described as asbestos lung cancer. This is true even if you were a smoker, as asbestos fibers can worsen the effects of smoking and increase your cancer risk.
Makers of asbestos-based products knew asbestos was harmful but told no one for decades. You can pursue financial compensation and justice from these companies if you were exposed to asbestos and now have lung cancer.
- Access Financial Aid and Justice
- Learn About Your Options
- Contact Us for Free
Stages of Lung Cancer
Doctors classify lung cancer cases into stages during a diagnosis. These stages allow doctors to note the cancer’s spread (metastasis) and what treatments will be most helpful.
The stages of lung cancer vary depending on what type you have.
The cancer is just on the top layer of the lung.
A small cancer tumor has formed in the lung.
Tumors are larger than those in stage I and have started spreading to nearby lymph nodes.
Tumors have spread further into more lymph nodes, the mediastinum (space in the chest between the lungs), and/or some organs outside of the chest.
Tumors have spread through the body to areas like the brain, heart, liver, or bones.
Doctors have a two-stage system for small-cell lung cancer.
- Limited stage: Limited or early-stage cancer is contained to one side of the chest and can be treated with radiation therapy. One-third of patients have limited stage SCLC.
- Extensive stage: The cancer has spread into the lungs, the fluid around the lungs, and/or to the bones, brain, and other organs.
Lung Cancer Prognosis
A prognosis is your health outlook after being diagnosed with a disease. A lung cancer prognosis depends on factors like cancer stage, type, your overall health, and more.
Doctors can tell you how long you’re projected to live (life expectancy) and how many other patients reached long-term survival (survival rate) as part of a prognosis.
Being told how long you may live can be scary or even traumatic. However, your prognosis could change for the better if you get treatment.
“Many doctors and nurses recommend not getting too hung up on your lung cancer prognosis. It is better to conserve your energy and focus on your treatment by taking one day at a time.”
— American Lung Association (ALA)
Lung Cancer Life Expectancy
The average lung cancer patient lives between a few months and two years after a diagnosis.
Non-small cell lung cancer patients have an average life expectancy of 11-13 months. Those with small-cell lung cancer can live between 8 and 23 months depending on their stage at the time of diagnosis.
That said, some lung cancer patients can live for years or decades after a lung cancer diagnosis. These patients are called lung cancer survivors.
Lung Cancer Survival Rate
A survival rate is the number of patients still alive after being diagnosed with a disease. It’s typically measured in years.
The average 5-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is 18.6%, according to the ALA.
The 5-year survival rate is 56% if the cancer was diagnosed before it spread beyond the lungs. However, the 5-year survival rate drops to 5% in patients diagnosed after the cancer has spread to other organs.
Treatment for Lung Cancer
Lung cancer treatments can help you live longer, improve your quality of life, or both. Learn about the most common treatment options for lung cancer below.
Doctors can surgically remove lung cancer tumors if the cancer is diagnosed in its earlier stages. Part or all of the lung may be removed depending on cancer spread, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Doctors typically can’t perform a major surgery if you’re a late-stage cancer patient. A surgery wouldn’t be able to fully remove the cancer since it has spread throughout your body. Fortunately, other treatments can shrink and destroy cancer tumors.
You could qualify for financial compensation to pay for surgeries and other treatments if you have asbestos-related lung cancer. Call (877) 446-5767 now to learn more.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment in which medications are used to destroy cancer. Chemotherapy can be used to treat lung cancer at any stage, according to the ACS.
Chemotherapy can shrink tumors before or after surgery in early-stage lung cancer patients. It can also shrink tumors in late-stage patients when combined with radiation therapy or immunotherapy.
Doctors can use beams of focused energy to destroy cancer cells. This is known as radiation therapy.
Doctors often combine radiation and chemotherapy to treat those with late-stage lung cancer. Radiation can also be used to shrink tumors before or after a major surgery.
Additionally, doctors may recommend radiation to prevent the cancer from spreading to other body parts, like the brain.
Lung cancer cells can sometimes avoid being attacked by your immune system. Certain medications help your body find lung cancer cells again and destroy them. These are known as immunotherapy drugs.
Doctors may combine immunotherapy with other treatments like chemotherapy to kill as much of the cancer as possible.
Other Lung Cancer Treatment Options
There are many other lung cancer treatments beyond the ones listed above.
Additional lung cancer treatments include:
- Alternative treatments: Treatments like yoga, meditation, supplements, and more may ease some lung cancer symptoms. However, they are not medically proven to help you beat cancer. Talk to your doctor before starting alternative treatments.
- Clinical trials: These trials allow researchers to test new treatments on patients. Ask your doctor about clinical trials that you may qualify for if you are interested.
- Palliative care: Palliative care is a treatment to relieve painful symptoms of lung cancer. Minor surgeries and low doses of chemotherapy and radiation can all be used as forms of palliative care.
- Radiofrequency ablation: This treatment uses electricity to destroy cancer cells.
- Targeted therapies: These treatments can kill cancer cells by attacking different parts of their DNA.
For best results, work with your medical team to come up with a treatment plan that is best for your case.
Lung Cancer Survivors
Treatments have helped many people with lung cancer live for months or years. Some patients even outlive their original prognosis. These patients are called lung cancer survivors.
It is possible to achieve long-term survival even if you’re diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. For example, a woman diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2006 lived for 13 years. Doctors originally gave her one year or less to live.
As lung cancer research continues and new treatments are developed, more and more people may be able to live longer and become survivors.
“The standard of care for lung cancer treatment has changed just in the last five years, due to advances in clinical research that our patients have contributed to. There is real hope in the field that we are able to improve and extend patients’ lives.”
— Anne Chiang, MD
Yale Medicine Lung Cancer Oncologist
Financial Help for Lung Cancer Patients
A lung cancer diagnosis is devastating — but you don’t have to go through it alone.
Our team can help you get compensation from manufacturers if you developed lung cancer due to asbestos exposure. Major manufacturers used asbestos for decades, despite knowing that people could get sick.
The lung cancer compensation we secure can pay for:
- Basic living expenses (groceries, rent)
- Health care costs
- Lost wages if you can’t work anymore
- Travel expenses if medical care isn’t close by
Our team might be able to help if you have lung cancer but aren’t sure if you were exposed to asbestos as well. Don’t wait: Call (877) 446-5767 to pursue financial compensation after a lung cancer diagnosis.
FAQs About Lung Cancer
How serious is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer. Nearly 2 million people worldwide died of lung cancer in 2020 alone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Less than 1 million died from the second-most deadly form of cancer (colorectal cancer).
Lung cancer is very serious in part because most people are diagnosed after the cancer has spread. This makes it harder to treat and lowers the odds that they’ll live for very long.
Don’t hesitate if you think you might have lung cancer. Get medical care as soon as possible.
Is cancer in the lungs curable?
Yes. Many people can be cured of lung cancer — especially if they are diagnosed before the cancer spreads.
For example, 80% to 90% of patients with early-stage small cell lung cancer can be cured, Dr. Jyoti D. Patel of Northwestern University’s Lurie Cancer Center.
You need to work with experienced lung cancer doctors if you want to be cured. Lung cancer can quickly become fatal without treatment.
What are the warning signs of lung cancer?
Signs of lung cancer include a chronic cough, chest pain, weight loss, and shortness of breath. However, you may not have any symptoms until the cancer has spread.
Get screened if you’re at risk of lung cancer, and see a doctor if you notice any of the warning signs listed above.
Does lung cancer spread quickly?
Yes. Lung cancer can spread rapidly through your body. Fortunately, treatments are available even if your cancer is widespread. These treatments can slow the cancer down, shrink tumors, and improve your life expectancy in some cases.
Is compensation available if I developed lung cancer?
Yes. You can get compensation for lung cancer if you worked around asbestos for an extended period of time.
Manufacturers sold thousands of asbestos-based products between the 1930s and early 1980s even though they knew asbestos was harmful.
You can demand compensation from these manufacturers if you now have asbestos lung cancer. We’ll help you get started — chat with us now.
Is mesothelioma a type of lung cancer?
No, mesothelioma is not a type of lung cancer, though both can be caused by asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that forms in the linings of major organs. It’s most commonly found in the lung lining, but can also appear in the abdomen lining, heart lining, or testicle lining.
The only major cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Lung cancer can be caused by many things, such as smoking, asbestos exposure, radon exposure, and more.
Our team can help you pursue financial aid if you or a loved one has mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer. Call (877) 446-5767 now to start the process.
How can I access lung cancer treatments?
Doctors at top cancer centers can make sure you’re getting the best treatments possible. Health care providers at these facilities can also help you manage any side effects from treatments.