Lung Cancer Facts

What is Lung Cancer?
Cancer is a disease marked by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The abnormal cells no longer act like normal cells, and they crowd out and destroy healthy tissue. Most types of cancer cells form a lump or mass called a tumor. Another word for cancerous is malignant, so a cancerous tumor is referred to as malignant.

Lung cancer begins in the lungs. Many lung cancers start in the lining of the air tubes (bronchi) but they can also begin in other areas such as the smaller branches of the air tubes (bronchioles) or the air sacs at the ends of these smaller branches (alveoli.) Cells from a tumor can break away and travel to other parts of the body where they take root and grow. This spreading process is called metastasis. Lung cancer is a life-threatening disease because it often spreads in this way before it causes symptoms.


What causes lung cancer?

A risk factor is something that increases a personís chance of getting a disease. The two most significant risk factors associated with lung cancer are:

Cigarettes: Smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer. Harmful substances, called carcinogens, in tobacco damage the cells in the lungs. Over time, the damaged cells may become cancerous. The more a person smokes and the longer the person smokes, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer.
  Occupational exposures:  Certain substances (such as asbestos, nickel compounds and beryllium) and radiation increase the risk of lung cancer for workers. Occupational exposures and cigarette smoking often work together to increase the risk of lung cancer.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer?
Although most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread, symptoms can occur in some patients with early lung cancer. You should report any of the following symptoms to your doctor right away. If lung cancer is found, prompt treatment can lead to a cure for some people and extend the life of others.

a persistent cough that gets worse over time
  constant chest pain
  weight loss and /or decreased appetite
  coughing up blood
  shortness of breath or wheezing
  a fever for an unknown reason
  recurring infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia

The best time to diagnose lung cancer is before there are symptoms, when it is easier to treat.

What are the chances of surviving lung cancer?
When lung cancer is diagnosed following the development of symptoms, just 20 out of 100 people diagnosed will, on average, survive at least five years. When lung cancers are detected in the early stages (before they have spread outside of the lung where they began), the survival rate increases dramatically to 70% or higher. In other words, at least 70 of every 100 people diagnosed at an early stage can expect to survive for at least five years.

An annual low dose CT scan of the chest is the key to early detection of lung cancer. Large randomized, clinical studies of low dose CT scans in the U.S. and Europe have demonstrated at least a 20 percent reduction in deaths from lung cancer among current and former smokers who underwent annual low-dose chest CT screenings for 3 to 5 years, compared to a similar group who underwent chest X-ray screenings.

You should be aware that false-positive CT scan findings sometimes occur and may lead to unnecessary anxiety, testing, and surgery.

The Worker Health Protection Program is pleased to be able to offer low-dose, spiral CT scans to both hourly and salaried workers. The attached factsheet explains how spiral CT can help to detect lung cancer in the early stages when it is most likely to be treatable. Your decision to participate in the program is entirely voluntary.

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