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Lung Cancer


Lung cancer

usually starts in the cells that line the inside of the lungs. The 2 basic types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

The Lungs

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Chest pain that is not just in one area of your chest
  • A cough that will not go away, and gets worse over time
  • Coughing up sputum, which may be bloody
  • Frequent colds or other respiratory infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Hoarseness or difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling more tired and weak than usual
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss without trying
  • Face or neck swelling

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded or are short of breath.
  • You cough up blood.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You cannot think clearly.
  • Your lips or nails look blue or pale.

Contact your healthcare provider or oncologist if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have blood in your mucus or spit.
  • You are vomiting and cannot keep food or liquids down.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for lung cancer

may include any of the following:

  • Surgery may be done on tumors that are small and have not spread to other parts of the body. If the tumor cannot be completely removed, surgery may be used to treat complications or to decrease your symptoms.
  • Radiation therapy uses x-rays or gamma rays to treat cancer. Radiation kills cancer cells and may stop the cancer from spreading.
  • Medicine is used to kill cancer cells. It may also be used to shrink lymph nodes that have cancer in them.

Manage your lung cancer:

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Drink extra liquids to prevent dehydration. You will need to drink extra liquids if you are vomiting or have diarrhea from cancer treatments.
  • Return to activities slowly. Do more as you feel stronger. You may have trouble breathing when you are lying down. Use foam wedges or elevate the head of your bed. This may help you breathe easier while you are resting or sleeping. Use a device that will tilt your whole body, or bend your body at the waist. The device should not bend your body at the upper back or neck.
  • Exercise as directed. Exercise can help increase your energy level.
  • Eat healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. It may be easier for you to eat several small meals a day rather than a few large meals.
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol as directed. Alcohol can make breathing problems worse. Ask your healthcare provider if alcohol is safe for you to drink. You will need to limit the amount you drink if it is safe for you. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink per day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

Follow up with your oncologist as directed:

You will need to see your oncologist for ongoing treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Lung Cancer (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference