Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death for both men and women. Each year, an estimated 221,200 people are diagnosed with lung cancer and more than 158,000 will die of the disease.

Lung cancer accounts for about 14 percent of all new cancer diagnoses and 27 percent of all cancer deaths. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer.

Risk Factors

You might be at increased risk for lung cancer if you:

  • Smoke or have a history of heavy smoking (even if you quit years ago)
  • Are heavily exposed to second-hand smoke
  • Are exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution
  • Are exposed to certain toxic substances, such as arsenic, radon or asbestos
  • Have a job that exposes you to radiation
  • Have a personal or family history of lung cancer


In the early stages of lung cancer, there may not be any symptoms. In later stages, you may experience these symptoms:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Constant chest pain
  • Repeated pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Feeling very tired all the time


  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit.
  • Stay away from second-hand smoke.
  • Make your home and community smoke-free
  • Check your home for radon
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and get more exercise

Early Detection

Talk to your health care professional about the pros and cons of screening. Research has shown that low-dose spiral CT screening can detect cancer in earlier stages and reduce deaths from lung cancer by 20 percent.


Treatment Options


Surgery is the usual treatment for disease in its early stages when it has not spread outside the lungs. Sometimes in early stages chemotherapy is used in combination with surgery.

New, less invasive surgery may help patients recover more quickly with the same results as older, more invasive surgery.


Radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes used in combination with surgery for later stages of the disease.

Oral Therapies

Some patients with stage IV lung cancer (disease that has spread to distant organs) may be treated with oral therapies. These are patients with tumors that show certain genetic changes. Patients should have their tumors tested for these genetic changes.

For more information, contact Karen Peterson at 703-837-3680 or

Additional Resources

For more information, contact Karen Peterson at 703-837-3680 or

  • To check your home for radon, you can contact a qualified contractor through your state radon office. State radon offices are listed on the EPA website.


Fact Sheet
Lung Cancer Factsheet
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Lung Cancer Factsheet (Spanish)
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