Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lung grow and multiply uncontrollably, damaging surrounding tissue and interfering with the normal function of the lung. The cells can spread to other parts of the body. When the disease spreads, it is still called lung cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for 80 percent of all lung cancers. Non-small cell lung cancers include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma. They generally spread very slowly to other organs in the body, and can be hard to detect in the early stages. Small cell lung cancer is responsible for about 20 percent of all lung cancers. Also known as “oat cell” cancer, it spreads very quickly through the lungs to other parts of the body.
Lung cancer symptoms vary from person to person and may include:
- A cough that will not go away and gets worse over time
- Constant chest pain, or arm and shoulder pain
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
- Repeated episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis
- Swelling of the neck and face
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
- Clubbing of fingers
Many of these symptoms are not cancer, but if you notice one or more of them for more than two weeks, see your doctor.