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Lung cancer ‐ diagnosis and treatment

Each year, more people die of lung cancer than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. Most common in older adults, it is rare in people under age 45.

Common causes

  • Cigarette smoking (including secondhand smoke).
  • Breathing radon (an odorless gas emitted from the ground)
  • Inhaling asbestos fibers (from insulation or manufacturing), or exposure to dust or fumes from industrial compounds
  • Breathing heavily polluted air
  • A family history of lung cancer


These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious conditions, so it is important to talk to your doctor if you experience any of them:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Constant chest pain
  • Frequent chest colds or infections
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue, loss of weight or loss of appetite


To confirm lung cancer, your doctor needs to remove a piece of tissue from your lungs for examination under a microscope. This is called a biopsy. Diagnosis also may require:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Sputum (mucus) sample
  • Blood tests
  • CT, MRI or PET scans of the chest


Most lung cancers require a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Chemotherapy uses medicines to destroy cancer cells. You may receive it by mouth or through your veins.

Radiation therapy uses high-dose X-rays to destroy cancer cells. It also can shrink swollen lymph nodes. Radiation can be given outside the body or inside (through treatments such as brachytherapy, or radioactive “seed” implants in or near tumors).

Surgery to remove all or part of a lung involves making a cut on one side of the chest during a procedure called a thoracotomy. Surgery that uses this approach avoids areas in the chest that contain the heart and the spinal cord.

Clinical Trials, or research projects to test medicines and treatments, are often available to people with lung and other cancers. Locally, cancer research trials are available through the Wichita Community Clinical Oncology Program, based at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.


If you smoke, quit. It is never too late to stop smoking. Your risk of lung cancer drops dramatically the first year after you quit. You should also avoid breathing in the smoke from other people's cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.