Fast Facts on Lung Cancer

Here are some fast facts about lung cancer and treatments for the disease.

About 170,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with lung cancer each year.

In recent years, cases of lung cancer have been declining among men, but the illness is increasingly common among women.

Much of the increase of lung cancer cases in women is attributed to an increase in women who began to smoke in recent decades.

Recent studies indicate that women who smoke may be more likely to develop lung cancer than men who smoke.

Stopping smoking, regardless of age, significantly reduces the risk of lung cancer.

In addition to smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, radon, asbestos and air pollution have been associated with lung cancer.

Cancer may form in the lungs or in the bronchi (the air passageways leading into the lungs).

There are two major types of lung cancer -- small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, named for the way the cells appear under a microscope.

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common kind of cancer and is usually associated with a history of smoking. In most cases, it grows and spreads slower than small cell cancer.

Small cell cancer, sometimes called "oat cell cancer," grows more quickly and is more likely to spread to other organs in the body.

Tumors in the lungs may also arise from cancers elsewhere in the body.

Lung cancer can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages because symptoms sometimes don't appear until the disease is in an advanced stage.

Symptoms of lung cancer can include a persistent cough, constant chest pain, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, wheezing, hoarseness, repeated bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis, swelling of the neck and face, weight loss, loss of appetite, and fatigue.

The most common procedures for diagnosing lung cancer include: a chest X-ray; a sputum cytology involving a deep-cough sample of mucus; a biopsy using fine-needle aspiration to remove a sample of tissue; a bronchoscopy using a thin, lighted tube to collect a tissue sample; computed tomography scans; and magnetic resonance imaging.

Treatment options for lung cancer include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, a type of laser therapy called photodynamic therapy, cryotherapy to freeze and destroy cancerous tissue, or a combination of these procedures.

The drug gefitinib, marketed under the name Iressa, was approved in 2003 for treating lung cancer following an accelerated Food and Drug Administration approval track.

Recent studies of Iressa, however, have called into question the drug's safety and effectiveness. The FDA is expected to decide this year whether Iressa will remain on the market or not.

Sources: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the National Cancer Institute

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