The lungs bring oxygen into the body when you breathe in and take out carbon dioxide when you breathe out. Each lung has sections called lobes. The left lung has two lobes. The right lung, which is slightly larger, has three. A thin membrane called the pleura surrounds the lungs. Two tubes called bronchi lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the right and left lungs. Small tubes called bronchioles and tiny air sacs called alveoli make up the inside of the lungs. Lung cancer can develop in any part of the lung.
The most common type of lung cancer diagnosed in the United States — and seen at Roswell Park — is non-small cell lung cancer. It begins when epithelial cells, which form the lining of the lungs, become abnormal and start to grow uncontrollably.
There are three main types of non-small cell lung cancer, and the cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways. The types of lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look under a microscope.
Other less common types of non-small cell lung cancer are:
Small cell lung cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the lung. There are two types of small cell lung cancer:
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the lining of the chest or abdomen. Exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases one's risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.
An aggressive and insidious disease, lung cancer does not have many early warning signs, but as the cancer grows, common symptoms do occur. Individuals, especially smokers, often dismiss, ignore or attribute symptoms to conditions such as the flu or a cold.
Symptoms that may indicate that cancer has spread: