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Understanding Lung Cancer

     The lungs are 2 sponge-like organs found in the chest. The right lung has 3 sections, called lobes. The left lung has 2 lobes. The left lung is smaller because the heart takes up more room on that side of the body. The lungs bring air in and out of the body, taking in oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide gas, a waste product. The lining around the lungs, called the pleura, helps to protect the lungs and allows them to move during breathing. The windpipe (trachea) brings air down into the lungs. It divides into tubes called bronchi (singular bronchus), which divide into smaller branches called bronchioles. At the end of these small branches are tiny air sacs known as alveoli. Most lung cancers start in the lining of the bronchi, although they can start in other parts of the lung. Lung cancer often takes many years to develop. First, there may be areas of pre-cancerous changes in the lung. These changes are not a mass or tumor. They canít be seen on an x-ray and they donít cause symptoms. But these changes can be found by special tests of cells in the lining of the airways of lungs damaged by smoke. As these pre-cancerous areas go on to become true cancer, they may make chemicals that cause new blood vessels to form nearby. These new blood vessels nourish the cancer cells and allow a tumor to form. Finally, the tumor becomes large enough to be seen on an x-ray. Once lung cancer occurs, cancer cells can break away and spread to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis. Lung cancer is a life-threatening disease because it often spreads in this way before it is found.


Lung Cancer Statistics

According to the American Cancer Society

 Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in both men and women

 More people die of lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined

 The average age of people found to have lung cancer is 70

 In 2005 there will be about 172,570 new cases of lung cancer in the United States: 93,010 among men and 79,560 among women. About 163,510 people will die of this disease: 90,490 men and 73,020 women

 About 6 out of 10 people with lung cancer die within 1 year of finding out they have lung cancer. Between 7 and 8 will die within 2 years




  Signs and Symptoms

Who's at Risk

How Lung Cancer is Detected


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