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Lung cancer

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From MayoClinic.com

Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancers and takes the lives of millions of people every year and is the leading cause of cancer deaths, among both men and women. It claims more lives than colon, prostate and breast cancer combined.

Yet most of these deaths could have been prevented. That's because smoking accounts for about 85 percent to 90 percent of lung cancer cases. Although your risk of cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you smoke, quitting smoking, even after many years, can greatly reduce your chances of developing the disease.

Protecting yourself from exposure to other leading causes of lung cancer, such as asbestos, radon and secondhand smoke, also decreases your risk. Prevention is especially important because lung cancer usually isn't discovered until it's at an advanced stage when the outlook for recovery is less positive. Treatment for lung cancer depends on the type of cancer, how advanced it is and your overall health. In some cases, surgical removal of the tumor may be an option. In others, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of the two is likely to provide better results.

Signs and symptoms

Because lung cancer doesn't cause signs or symptoms in its earliest stages, it's often quite advanced by the time it's diagnosed. The most common warning sign is a cough, which occurs when a tumor irritates the lining of the airways or blocks the passage of air. In addition to a new cough, be alert for:

  • "Smoker's cough" that worsens

  • Coughing up blood, even a small amount

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • New onset of wheezing

  • Repeated bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis

  • Hoarseness that lasts more than 2 week

Lung cancer also may cause fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss. If it has spread to other parts of your body (metastasized), you may have headaches or bone pain.

Although many of these symptoms might be attributed to other causes, talk to your doctor if you experience such problems. The earlier you discover and treat lung cancer, the better chance you have of lengthening your life and reducing symptoms.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/14/08 11:48 PM