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Of all the types of cancer, lung cancer is responsible for the most
deaths in men and women. It is estimated that about 169,400 new cases of lung
cancer and about 154,900 lung cancer deaths will have occurred in the United
States in 2002.
Tobacco smoking is thought to be responsible for 8 out of 10 cases of
lung cancer. Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer
because tobacco smoke contains carcinogens (substances that can
cause cancer). Exposure to second-hand smoke from being around people who
smoke also increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
An article in the January 15, 2003, issue of JAMA reports
that a screening technique called helical computed tomography using
computerized x-ray images is unlikely to be a cost-effective method for early
detection of lung cancer in smokers. At this time, stopping smoking is the
only proven method for reducing the risk of developing lung cancer.
Constant chest pain
Loss of appetite or weight loss
Swelling of neck and face
Coughing up blood
If lung cancer is suspected, your doctor may order a chest x-ray and
a sputum test, in which mucus coughed up from the lungs is analyzed. To confirm
the presence of lung cancer, a biopsy may be performed: a small
sample of lung tissue is removed and examined for cancerous cells. If lung cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will want to determine
the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread to other organs, a process
known as staging. Knowing the stage of the disease is important
in determining treatment.
Many factors go into determining the best treatment for lung cancer,
including the stage of the disease, the specific type of cancer cells, the
location in the lungs, and the general health of the patient.
Surgery to remove part of the lung, or in some cases
an entire lung, may be performed. Surgery for some tumors may not be possible
because of their size or location.
Chemotherapy (using drugs that kill cancer cells)
is commonly used to treat cancer. Chemotherapy drugs are often given by vein.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by using high-energy
rays supplied either by an external source aimed at the tumor or by implanting
tiny radioactive particles directly in the tumor.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can have serious side effects, especially
because these two treatments affect healthy as well as cancerous cells. Typical
side effects include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, mouth sores, and fatigue.
American Cancer Society 800/ACS-2345 www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute 800/4-CANCER (800/422-6237) www.cancer.gov
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
Index on JAMA 's Web site at www.jama.com. A Patient Page on tobacco
use was published in the September 1, 1999, issue, and one on quitting smoking
was published in the July 24/31, 2002, issue.
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA . The information and
recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances,
but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information
concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult
your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians
and other health care professionals to share with patients. Any other print
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Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, American
Parmet S, Lynm C, Glass RM. Lung Cancer. JAMA. 2003;289(3):380. doi:10.1001/jama.289.3.380