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Fact Sheet: Lung Cancer


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The lungs are like two big sponges, soaking up external contaminants. Often, this can lead to lung cancer -- one of the most common forms of malignancy.

Signs And Symptoms

Early detection can have an effect on the cure rate of lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, if you have any of the following problems, see a doctor right away:

A cough that does not go away

Chest pain


Weight loss and loss of appetite

Bloody or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)

Shortness of breath

Fever without a known reason

Recurring infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia

Risk Factors

Tobacco smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. Tobacco smoke causes more than 8 out of 10 cases of lung cancer, according to the Cancer Society.

In addition to cigarettes, there are many other risk factors for lung cancer: a family or personal history of lung cancer, exposure to cancer-causing agents in the workplace or the environment, aging and lung scarring which results from some types of pneumonia.

Treatment Options

In recent years, much progress has been made in treating lung cancer with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery has been improved, and more is known about the best way to combine drugs to treat different types of cancer. (More about treatment options)

Survival Rates

The 5-year relative survival rate for all stages of lung cancer combined is only 15 percent. This has improved slightly in the last few years, according to the American Cancer Society. For people whose lung cancer is found and treated before it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs, the average 5-year relative survival rate is about 49 percent. However, only 16 percent of people with lung cancer are diagnosed at this early, localized stage. If the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, the 5-year relative survival rate is 17 percent.

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