World Lung Cancer Day 2018: Signs and symptoms of lung cancer

Every year on Aug. 1, health organizations around the globe tweet about #WorldLungCancerDay to spread awareness about the disease and its symptoms, celebrate lung cancer survivors and remember those who have passed.

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Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world — and cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States.

In fact, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 153,718 people died of lung and bronchus cancer in the U.S. in 2015, the latest year for which data are available. For every 100,000 Americans, there were 58 new Lung and Bronchus cancer cases and 41 deaths reported in 2015.

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Here’s what you need to know about lung cancer:


What is it?

According to the CDC, lung cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs that can spread to the lymph nodes or other body organs, including the brain. 

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends those with a history of heavy smoking, those who smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years and folks between 55-80 years old should receive yearly lung cancer screenings.

Types of lung cancers

Non-small cell (most common): There are multiple subtypes of this cancer, but they’re all similarly diagnosed and treated. Such subtypes include adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Small cell: Approximately 10-15 percent of all lung cancers are small cell lung cancers. These involve fast-growing cancer cells that typically multiply in the bronchi and metastasize throughout the body.

Lung carcinoid tumor (least common): These rare cancers (also called lung neuroendocrine tumors) are slow-growing and rarely spread, according to the American Cancer Society.

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Risk factors

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer. People who smoke are 15-30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than their non-smoking counterparts.

Men who smoke are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer than men who don't. And women smokes are 25.7 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who don't.

“Using other tobacco products such as cigars or pipes also increases the risk for lung cancer,” the agency notes on its website. “Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Many are poisons. At least 70 are known to cause cancer in people or animals.”

Quitting smoking can lower your risk.

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Other risk factors include:

  • secondhand smoke from other people’s cigarettes, pipes or cigars
  • radon gas from rocks and dirt trapped in houses and buildings
  • exposure to asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust, some forms of silica and chromium
  • personal or family history of lung cancer
  • radiation therapy to the chest
  • ingestion of beta-carotene supplements
  • ingestion of arsenic in drinking water

Symptoms 

  • stubborn coughing
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • coughing blood
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • bouts of pneumonia
  • swollen lymph nodes

Treatment

Treatment for lung cancer depends on the type of lung cancer and its stage (or how far it’s spread).

Non-small cell lung cancer is often treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or a combination of the treatments, according to the CDC.

Those with small cell lung cancer are typically treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Have you been diagnosed with cancer? Follow the National Cancer Institute’s guide to finding a doctor or treatment facility that’s right for you.

Learn more about lung cancer at cdc.gov.

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