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Lung Cancer

Last updated: January 16, 2019

What Is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the leading form of cancer death in Anne Arundel County, Maryland and in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths can be traced to tobacco use. Lung cancer is the presence of cancer cells in the tissues of the lungs, usually in the cells lining air passages. There are two types of lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is most common and grows and spreads slowly. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) grows and spreads faster than NSCLC.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop lung cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Studies have shown the following risks factors for lung cancer:

  • Smoking Tobacco Products
    Smoking is the number one risk factor for developing lung cancer. If you smoke, quit.
  • Exposure to Environmental Tobacco
    Secondhand smoke, comes from the burning end of a cigarette or cigar and the smoke that has been breathed out by a person smoking. Exposure to the product of burning tobacco, includes toxic smoke particles that cling to surrounding clothing, furniture, carpet and the area long after the smoke has cleared.
  • Exposure to Asbestos
    Asbestos is a cancer-causing group of minerals that occurs naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers. If products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air. If these fibers are breathed in, they can be trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time causing scarring and irritation.
  • Exposure to Radon
    Radon is a radioactive gas released by the breakdown of uranium in some soils, rocks and water. Radon exposure is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking tobacco products.
  • Family History
    People with a parent, sibling or child with lung cancer have a greater risk of developing lung cancer themselves.
  • History of Radiation Therapy
    Individuals who have received radiation treatment, especially on their chest, have an increased risk of lung cancer.
    If you think you may be at risk, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to suggest ways to further reduce your risk and can make recommendations for lung cancer screening.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Early lung cancer may not show any symptoms. Some symptoms that could be present include:

  • Constant chest pain
  • Cough that does not go away and continues to get worse over time
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing and hoarseness (strained voice)
  • Loss of feeling hungry and losing weight without trying
  • Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Neck and face swelling

Lung Cancer Screening Recommendations

The recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). In this test, an X-ray machine scans the body and uses low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of the lungs. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for people who have a history of heavy smoking for 30 years (1-pack per day for 30 years or 2-packs per day for 15 years) and smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and are between 55 and 80 years old. Most insurances and Medicare Part B cover LDCT screening test.

More Information

If you smoke, try to quit. Order online a FREE Quit Smoking Kit that includes local resources or request one from the Learn To Live Line at 410-222-7979 or email Include your name and complete address.

Helpful Links

Lung Cancer in Spanish

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