The Causes of Lung Cancer

There’s a common belief that only smokers can get lung cancer. That’s not true. While smokers are at higher risk, anyone can get lung cancer - even nonsmokers. In fact, 40% of Asians with lung cancer do not smoke3. That's because lung cancer can be caused by other things, such as second hand smoke, radon, and gene mutations.

What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

The signs of lung cancer can be easily mistaken for the symptoms of flu or bronchitis, so it is important to be vigilant about your health. The earlier you catch lung cancer, the better. If you are Asian, or if you are age 55 or older, talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • a long-lasting cough that does not get better
  • a long-lasting cough that brings up blood
  • sudden unexplained weight loss
  • sudden lack of energy, or a feeling of being tired all the time

Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can be divided into 2 types, Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). NSCLC is the most common - 85% of all lung cancer diagnoses are for NSCLC. These two types of lung cancers are treated differently, so it is important to determine the kind of lung cancer you have.

The Types of Lung Cancers.

The subtypes of NSCLC

There are 3 subtypes of NSCLC, with adenocarcinoma being the most common (40% of all lung cancers) for both smokers and nonsmokers.

Diagnosing NSCLC

Your doctors will perform many tests to confirm that you have lung cancer, to find out the kind of lung cancer that you have, and to determine the stage that the lung cancer has progressed in your body. These factors all determine your treatment plan.

A lung cancer diagnosis includes many tests that study your lung cells or tissue. A very common test is a lung biopsy, in which a piece of tissue from the lung is removed by a pathologist or thoracic surgeon, and examined for abnormal cells. Your doctor may also perform imaging tests that “take pictures” of your body, to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Staging NSCLC

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, it’s very important to know what stage it’s in, so your doctor can determine the best treatment options for you. There are six stages of lung cancer:

  • Occult Stage
    Hidden cancer cells are in mucus that is coughed up from the lungs.
  • Stage 0
    The airways contain abnormal cells, which may have spread to nearby areas outside of the lungs.
  • Stage I
    Early cancer is confirmed by the presence of a single tumor in the lung. At this stage, the tumor has not yet spread.
  • Stage II
    At this stage, the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes on the same side of the chest or to other tissues in your chest. There may be two tumors in the same part of the lungs.
  • Stage III
    At this stage, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in other parts of the chest or to other major organs in the chest, such as the heart or arteries.
  • Stage IV
    (also called “advanced stage” or “metastatic”) At this stage, cancer has spread to other parts of the body and to organs outside the chest, such as the brain, blood, or bones.