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Lung Cancer

What Is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the lung.

The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped breathing organs in the chest. The lungs bring oxygen into the body as you breathe in. They release carbon dioxide, a waste product of the body's cells, as you breathe out. Each lung has sections called lobes. The left lung has two lobes. The right lung is slightly larger, and has three lobes. A thin membrane called the pleura surrounds the lungs. Two tubes called bronchi lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the right and left lungs. The bronchi are sometimes also involved in lung cancer. Tiny air sacs called alveoli and small tubes called bronchioles make up the inside of the lungs.

Respiratory anatomy; drawing shows right lung with upper, middle, and lower lobes; left lung with upper and lower lobes; and the trachea, bronchi, lymph nodes, and diaphragm. Inset shows bronchioles, alveoli, artery, and vein.

There are two types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.
 

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.

More people die from lung cancer than from any other type of cancer. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States, after skin cancer.

The number of new cases and deaths from lung cancer is highest in black men.

 

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ(r)) Cancer Information Summaries (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq). Date Last Modified: December 3, 2013

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Last Reviewed: Mar 23, 2015