Overview of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a disease caused by the rapid growth and division of cells that make up the lungs. Lung cancer is sometimes called "bronchogenic cancer," or it may be described by its particular histologic type, that is the type of tissue that is affected.

Under normal circumstances, lung cells reproduce in an orderly fashion to maintain tissue health and to repair injuries. However, when growth control is lost and cells divide too much and too fast, a cellular mass—or tumor—is formed. If the tumor is confined to a few cell layers (for example, surface cells) and it does not invade surrounding tissues or organs, it is considered benign. By contrast, if the tumor spreads to surrounding tissues or organs, it is considered malignant, or cancerous.

If cancerous cells break away from the original tumor, travel, and grow within other body parts—such as the brain, bone, liver, adrenal glands, the opposite lung, or lymph nodes of the chest or collarbone (clavicle) regions—the condition is known as metastasis.

The American Lung Association® has launched a valuable website for people who have been diagnosed with lung cancer and their caregivers. For more information, please visit Facing Lung Cancer: Support from Day One.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 15 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 25 Feb 2013