Lung cancer is cancer that begins in the lungs. It is the second most common cancer in both men and women, as well as the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.
There are two main types of lung cancer. They are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. A doctor called a pathologist uses a microscope to look at the cancer cells collected during your biopsy to tell which type of cancer you have. These two types of lung cancer grow and spread in different ways. Therefore, they are treated differently. Non-small cell lung cancer usually grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer. Learn more about your type of lung cancer ›
For some types of cancer, there are screening tests to detect small tumors while they're still potentially curable. Breast self-examination and yearly mammograms, for example, often help detect breast cancer before it has spread to other areas of the body. For many cancers, however, reliable and effective tests for early detection still don't exist. The lack of effective methods for early detection of lung cancer is one of the reasons that most people diagnosed with lung cancer have advanced disease, and fewer than 15 percent of these patients will survive more than five years.
There are two tests commonly used as early tests to look for lung cancer in people who have symptoms. One is a chest X-ray. The other is a sputum cytology test, which involves collecting the mucus coughed up and looking at it under a microscope for cancer cells. Both of these tests have been studied extensively for use as screening tests for early detection, but neither approach has been proven to reduce the number of lung cancer deaths. As a result, the American Cancer Society and most doctors have not recommended lung cancer screening for the general population or even for people at higher risk, such as cigarette smokers.Learn more about new tests for lung cancer ›