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Lung Cancer

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Lung cancer develops in the tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. It is responsible for the most cancer-related deaths in both men and women in Texas. The most common type, non-small cell lung cancer, accounts for approximately 85 to 90 percent of lung cancers. Lung cancer can be treated and is often preventable, but only 17 percent of people live more than five years beyond their initial diagnosis.


  • In 2015, an estimated 221,200 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer, and 158,040 deaths are expected in the U.S.
  • Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in Texas, and each year kills more people than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. 
  • In 2015, an estimated 13,619 new lung cancer cases will be diagnosed in Texas, and 10,985 Texans are expected to die from the disease.
  • Up to 87 percent of all lung cancer deaths are attributed to smoking, as are at least 32 percent of all cancer deaths.
  • Men and women who smoke are 25 times and 25.7 times, respectively, more likely to develop lung cancer.
  • In 2014, a study found up to 24,000 Americans die of lung cancer each year even though they have never smoked.

Risk Factors 

  • Smoking: Tobacco smoke is the most important risk factor for lung cancer, as it is thought to cause most lung cancer deaths. Secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer in nonsmokers. The more a person is exposed to smoke, the greater their risk of developing lung cancer. However, some people who have never smoked may develop lung cancer.
  • Age: About two thirds of people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older.
  • Family and/or Personal History: People with a parent or sibling who had lung cancer have a higher than average risk of developing the disease, even if they are nonsmokers. Lung cancer survivors are at increased risk of secondary primary cancers.
  • Exposure: People who live or work in certain conditions where they are exposed to radioactive gas, asbestos, arsenic, radon, diesel exhaust, air pollution, and other substances have an increased risk of developing lung cancer.


Lung cancer symptoms vary with each patient. People with these symptoms should consult their physician:

  • Chest pain made worse with deeper breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Coughing up blood or a cough that won’t go away
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Breathing trouble, such as shortness of breath
  • Frequent or persistent lung infections
  • Weight loss with no known cause

Prevention and Screening 

  • Do not smoke. Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer and can shorten life expectancy by 14 years.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke. More than 7,000 people in the U.S. die annually from lung cancer as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Take precautions at work. Exposure to certain types of fumes, dust, and chemicals can cause lung cancer.
  • Test your home for radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that cannot be seen, felt, or tasted. Some homes are built on soil with natural uranium deposits, which can create high levels of indoor radon exposure, increasing risk for lung cancer. Radon detection kits, as well as EPA-suggested companies, can be used to test your home for radon.
  • Get screened. People ages 55-80 with a history of heavy smoking, who smoke now, or who quit within the past 15 years may be at a higher risk for lung cancer and should consider a yearly low-dose CT to screen for lung cancer, which could reduce risk of dying from lung cancer.

Treatment Options 

Lung cancer, depending on the stage, may be treated by a team of specialists, including pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists. Treatment options vary depending on the stage and type of the cancer, the patient’s symptoms and overall health, and a variety of other factors. Lung cancer found at an early stage may be curable with surgery and chemotherapy after surgery, and a small number of lung cancer cases that have spread to nearby organs can be cured with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Targeted therapies may be beneficial in lung cancers with certain gene mutations, which can be identified by molecular testing. Immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and proton therapy are other treatment options. Clinical trials evaluating new therapies for lung cancer may be available to patients.

Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute, Texas Cancer Registry