Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in both men and women in this country. According to the American Cancer Society, almost 220,000 people are diagnosed with it each year. Most cases are linked to tobacco smoking.
The lungs, which help you breathe, are two sponge-like, cone-shaped organs in the chest. When you breathe in, oxygen comes through your mouth and nose. It then travels through the windpipe (trachea), which divides into two tubes called bronchi. These take the oxygen to the left and right lungs. The inside of the lungs includes smaller branches called bronchioles and alveoli, which are tiny air sacs.
Each lung is divided into sections called lobes. The right lung has three lobes. The left lung, which has two lobes, is smaller than the right lung because the heart is also on the left side of the body.
The pleura is a thin membrane that covers the outside of each lung and lines the inside wall of the chest. It usually contains a small amount of fluid and forms a protective lining around the lungs that allows them to move smoothly during breathing.
Lung cancer forms in the tissues of the lungs, most often in the cells that line air passages. It occurs when cells in your lungs grow and multiply uncontrollably, damaging surrounding tissue and interfering with the lungs’ normal function.
Lung cancer may spread through your lymph system. Lymph is a clear fluid that contains tissue waste and cells that help fight infection. It travels through your body in vessels that are similar to veins. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs that link lymph vessels.
Cancer cells can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of your body through the bloodstream as well. When lung cancer spreads to other organs, it still is called lung cancer.
At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, lung cancer is treated with a multidisciplinary approach in which a team of experts including medical, surgical and radiation oncologists work together to develop an individual treatment plan based on each patient’s unique needs.