What do you need to know about lung cancer?

Posted by Jayanthi Vijayakumar, MD, oncologist and hematologist, Minnesota Oncology & Ridgeview Cancer & Infusion Center on Nov 5, 2019 1:30:00 PM

Vijayakumar, J MD-33218 profileLung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths in the U.S. It is estimated that more than 234,030 new cases will be diagnosed and approximately 154,050 people will die from the disease this year. More people die from lung cancer than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Although lung cancer is the deadliest cancer type, it is rare in people under the age of 40.

Risk factors

Smoking - the leading cause of lung cancer. Tobacco smoke causes more than eight out of 10 lung cancer cases. This includes marijuana, as many of the cancer-causing substances in tobacco are also found in marijuana.

Exposure - being exposed to arsenic, asbestos, radon, uranium, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline and diesel exhaust can also increase the risk of lung cancer.

Disease - certain disease, such as silicosis and berylliosis, can increase the chances of lung cancer.

Radiation treatment to lungs - people who have had radiation to the chest to treat another cancer are at higher risk for lung cancer, especially if they smoke.

Signs and symptoms

Most lung cancers do not cause symptoms until the cancer has spread. However, the symptoms listed below may indicate the presence of lung cancer and should be addressed by a doctor immediately:

  • A cough that does not go away
  • Chest pain, made worse by deep breathing, coughing or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Bloody or rust colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • New onset of wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Reoccurring infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia


Currently, screening for lung cancer is done for eligible patients using low dose CT imaging.

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Medical and health information presented here is intended to be general in nature, and should not be viewed as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult with a health care professional for all matters relating to personal medical and health care issues. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 

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