Lung Cancer

here are 2 main classifications of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). These 2 types are treated differently. This guide contains information about NSCLC. Learn more about small cell lung cancer in a different guide. This website also offers a separate guide on neuroendocrine tumors of the lung.

NSCLC begins when healthy cells in the lung change and grow out of control, forming a mass called a tumor, a lesion, or a nodule. A lung tumor can begin anywhere in the lung. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. Once a cancerous lung tumor grows, it may shed cancer cells. These cells can be carried away in blood or float away in the fluid, called lymph, that surrounds lung tissue. Lymph flows through tubes called lymphatic vessels that drain into collecting stations called lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes are the small, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection. They are located in the lungs, the center of the chest, and elsewhere in the body. The natural flow of lymph out of the lungs is toward the center of the chest, which explains why lung cancer often spreads there first. When a cancer cell moves into a lymph node or to a distant part of the body through the bloodstream, it is called metastasis.

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