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This information was reviewed and approved by Jeffrey Kern, MD, Bronwyn Long, DNP, MBA, ACHPN, AOCNS, ACNS-BC, Laurie L. Carr, MD (10/1/2019).

Your lungs are made up of millions of individual cells. These individual cells have a life cycle of growth, duplication and death. New duplicated cells replace older dying or damaged cells. This is a fine-tuned mechanism throughout your life. This mechanism can break down, causing lung cancer. New lung cells can be made when they aren't needed, or older lung cells don’t die when they should, leading to unregulated growth of lung cells. This out-of-control growth of cells is lung cancer.

Early during the development of a lung cancer, there may be no symptoms, as the cancer is small and does not interfere with lung function. Lung cancer screening looks for a disease before a person has symptoms. Lung cancer is caused by a variety of exposures to things in the environment over time, as well as the genetics of your family. A history of cigarette smoking is a common risk factor. These factors increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Lung cancer screening is recommended if a person is at high risk for disease, but has not developed symptoms of the disease.

Lung cancer treatment is guided by the lung cancer’s location and size, and if it has spread anywhere. Combining all this information provides what is called the lung cancer stage. Lung cancer treatment options may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy or combinations of these approaches.

Living with lung cancer is a unique and special challenge that you and your family must deal with on a daily basis. However, the more you know about lung cancer, the better suited you will be in managing lung cancer.