Thoracic Oncology at GBMC FAQs

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is cancer that begins in the two organs in the chest that help you breathe. The lungs are made up of areas called loves. The right lung has three and the left lung has two, so there's room for the heart. When you breathe, air goes through the nose, down the windpipe, and into the lungs where it spreads through tubes called bronchi. This is where most long cancer begins.

What are the two types of lung cancer?

The most common is non-small cell lung cancer. It usually grows and spreads more slowly than small cell. Small cell lung cancer is fast growing and spreads quickly. It makes up about 20 percent of lung cancer cases and tends to be more common in men than women.

What are the risk factors for lung cancer?

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier in life you started smoking, the greater your risk of developing lung cancer.

Other risk factors include:

  • Exposure to high levels of air pollution
  • Consuming high levels of arsenic found in drinking water
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Family history

What are some of the symptoms of lung cancer?

Early lung cancer may not produce any symptoms. Many times, it's found when an X-ray is done for another reason.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Cough that doesn't go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

There are several tests that can be used to diagnose lung cancer. These include:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Sputum cytology test
  • Blood work
  • CT scan of chest
  • MRI of chest
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan

In some cases, a lung biopsy may be needed to confirm diagnosis.

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