The Stages and Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer accounts for about 13 percent of all new cancers according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). ACS has also estimated that in 2015 there will be about 221,000 new cases of lung cancer. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African American men and white women had the highest rates of lung cancer in 2012.


The signs of lung cancer do not usually manifest themselves until the cancer is advanced, which is why many cases of lung cancer are not diagnosed until the later stages. Here are some of the common signals of lung cancer:

  • A cough that gets worse over time
  • A chronic cough or “smoker’s cough”
  • Hoarseness
  • Constant chest pain
  • Shortness of breath, or wheezing
  • Frequent lung infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Coughing up blood

There are few nerve endings in the lungs, which make it possible for a tumor to grow without causing noticeable pain or discomfort.

Types of Lung Cancer

 Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) are the two main types of lung cancer. SCLC makes up 15 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses, with NSCLC making up the other 85 percent.

SCLC has two main types, small cell carcinoma and combined cell carcinoma. Small cell carcinoma is the more common of the two and is commonly referred to as oat cell cancer because the cells resemble oats under a microscope. SCLC typically affects heavy or lifetime smokers.

NSCLC is broken down into three types of cancers, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the cells that line the air passages and can spread to lymph nodes, bones, adrenal glands, liver, and brain. Adenocarcinoma develops in the mucus-producing outer part of the lungs and heavily affects women. Large cell carcinoma forms near the surface, near the outer edges of the lungs and can spread rapidly.

Preventative Measures

There is no way to guarantee avoiding lung cancer but taking preventative measures can help thwart a diagnosis down the line. Avoiding smoking is critical; stopping smoking and reducing exposure to second hand smoke are also important in lowering one’s risk for lung cancer. Adding fruits and vegetables into one’s diet, in addition to incorporating a workout regimen can contribute to preventing lung cancer as well.

During this Lung Cancer Awareness Month, take time to educate yourself about this deadly disease and start taking steps to stop a future diagnosis.


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works