Cancer of the Lungs

Cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These types are diagnosed based on how the cells look under a microscope. Your lungs are two spongy organs in your chest that take in oxygen when you inhale and release carbon dioxide when you exhale. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women. There are 228,190 estimated new cases of lung cancer in the United States in 2013 and 159,480 deaths.

Your Lungs

Your lungs are a pair of large organs in your chest. They are part of your respiratory system. Air enters your body through your nose or mouth. It passes through your windpipe (trachea) and through each bronchus, and goes into your lungs. When you breathe in, your lungs expand with air. This is how your body gets oxygen. When you breathe out, air goes out of your lungs. This is how your body gets rid of carbon dioxide. Your right lung has three parts (lobes). Your left lung is smaller and has two lobes. Inside the chest are two thin layers of tissue (the pleura). One layer covers the lungs and the other layer lines the inside of your chest.

Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up all tissues and organs of the body, including the lungs. Normal cells in the lungs and other parts of the body grow and divide to form new cells as they are needed. When normal cells grow old or get damaged, they die, and new cells take their place. Sometimes, this process goes wrong. New cells form when the body doesn't need them, and old or damaged cells don't die as they should. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor. Tumors in the lung can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

Types of Lung Cancer

The most common types are named for how the lung cancer cells look under a microscope. Small cell -the cells of small cell lung cancer look small under a microscope. About 1 of every 8 people with lung cancer has small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell - the cells of non-small cell lung cancer are larger than the cells of small cell lung cancer. Most (about 7 of every 8) people diagnosed with lung cancer have non-small cell lung cancer. It doesn't grow and spread as fast as small cell lung cancer, and it's treated differently.

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