Lung cancer occurs when the genetic material of cells in the lungs become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the lungs and move to other parts of the body. The single biggest causal factor in lung cancer is smoking cigarettes, which are thought to be responsible for about 90% of all cases. Tobacco smoke contains more than 60 different toxic substances, which can lead to the development of cancer.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK, with around 41,000 people diagnosed each year. There are two main types of lung cancer which behave and respond to treatment differently
Non-small-cell, which accounts for 80% of cases, and small-cell, which is less common and often more aggressive. It has a number of variants and can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of all three.
Small cell lung cancer is most commonly found in smokers and is usually treated with chemotherapy, or a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
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Further information about lung cancer can be accessed through the Macmillan Cancer Care website or by downloading the booklet here.