SEER Logo

SEER Training Modules

Introduction to Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer, accounting for about one out of five malignancies in men and one out of nine in women. Unfortunately, over the past several years, while the incidence of lung cancer has gradually declined in men, it has been rising alarmingly in women. In 1940 only seven women in 100,000 developed the disease; today the rate is 42 in 100,000. And all the evidence points to smoking as the cause. As one specialist in the field reports, "How long it takes to get cancer depends on how many cigarettes you smoke a day." However, studies prove that quitting smoking does lower the risk.

There are two major types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC)—which is also called oat cell cancer, because the cells resemble oat grains—and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The aggressiveness of the disease and treatment options depend on the type of tumor diagnosed. Because many types of lung cancer grow quickly and spread rapidly and because the lungs are vital organs, early detection and prompt treatment—usually surgery to remove the tumor—is critical.