Lung Cancer Overview
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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women and men both in the United States and throughout the world. Lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in women. In the United States in 2010, 157,300 people were projected to die from lung cancer, which is more than the number of deaths from colon and rectal, breast, and prostate cancer combined. Only about 2% of those diagnosed with lung cancer that has spread to other areas of the body are alive five years after the diagnosis, although the survival rates for lung cancers diagnosed at the earliest stage are higher, with approximately 49% surviving for five years or longer.
Cancer occurs when normal cells undergo a transformation that causes them to grow and multiply without control. The cells form a mass or tumor that differs from the surrounding tissues from which it arises. Tumors are dangerous because they take oxygen, nutrients, and space from healthy cells and because they invade and destroy or reduce the ability of normal tissues to function.
Most lung tumors are malignant. This means that they invade and destroy the healthy tissues around them and can spread throughout the body.
Some tumors in the lung are metastatic from cancers elsewhere in the body. The lungs are a common site for metastasis. If this is the case, the cancer is not considered to be lung cancer. For example, if prostate cancer spreads via the bloodstream to the lungs, it is metastatic prostate cancer (a secondary cancer) in the lung and is not called lung cancer.
Lung cancer comprises a group of different types of tumors. Lung cancers usually are divided into two main groups that account for about 95% of all cases.
The specific types of primary lung cancers are as follows:
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