Williams Cancer Institute

Lung Cancer

What is lung cancer? 

Lung cancer affects the lungs by developing abnormal cells that can ultimately cause the lungs to malfunction. The two main types of lung cancer are the following:

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) happens to be the majority of lung cancers. This is the type of lung cancer that is seen in smokers. It is also common in non-smokers. Younger people are at higher risk to develop this type of lung cancer compared to the other type.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is less common but this type does spread faster than the NSCLC.


Lung cancer is caused primarily by smoking tobacco. According to the American Cancer Society, about 80% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking. Secondhand smoking can also cause lung cancer. DNA mutations are another cause of developing cancer.


Certain symptoms for lung cancer can easily be mistaken for common illnesses such as a cold or pneumonia, this is why it is important to visit your physician at the onset of any of the following symptoms:

  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent cough
  • Abnormal weight loss

Risk factors

To this day smoking remains the top risk factor for developing lung cancer. The longer a person has smoked along with the number of packs of day smokes will increase the risk dramatically. Sadly, secondhand exposure to smoking also increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Radon exposure will be the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Since this is a naturally occurring gas, it can be inhaled very easily at indoor locations.


Lung cancer like many other cancers cannot be fully prevented but there are ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Some of these ways are by excluding smoking tobacco from your lifestyle, avoiding radon exposure, maintaining a low-stress life, eating a balanced diet, and partaking in physical activity.

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