Lung cancer, though largely preventable, claims the lives of at least 150,000 people in the United States each year. While approximately 87 percent of victims develop lung cancer from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, the remainder of victims—an alarming 19,500 people—develop and die from lung cancer not from tobacco but rather from exposure to dangerous substances, such as asbestos, silica dust, radon, and environmental pollutants.
Smoking and Other Causes of Lung Cancer
The above cited lung cancer figures don't account for victims whose cause of lung cancer may have been misidentified: experts believe that thousands of people who were told their lung cancer was caused by smoking in fact developed the disease because of exposure to a toxic substance.
These lung cancer figures also don't take into consideration people who both smoked and were exposed to harmful substances. According to the Mesothelioma Information and Research Group, studies have shown that smoking increases one's risk of asbestos-related lung cancer by a factor of 10, while asbestos exposure alone increases the risk of lung cancer by a factor of five. But when a smoker is exposed to asbestos, he or she increases his or her lung cancer risk factor by about 50 times. Thus, if you have developed lung cancer, smoking might not be to blame.
About Lung Cancer and Lung Metastases
Lung cancer is similar to many other forms of cancer. Cancer, which is the uncontrollable division and replication of cells, usually originates in one part of the body. If left untreated most cancer, including lung cancer, may spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body. This spread of lung metastases makes the cancer much more difficult to treat.
Even if other organs are affected by lung metastases, the lung cancer is still considered to be cancer of the organ where it was first found. For example, if the disease initially develops in the lungs but lung metastases spreads it the brain, lymph nodes, or pancreas, it is still considered to be lung cancer.
As cancer cells replicate, they form growths called tumors. These tumors are malignant, meaning that they invade and destroy surrounding healthy cells and tissue. Once lung metastases of cancer cells spread, they can overpower the healthy or non-cancerous tissue in the body, ultimately resulting in death if not properly treated.
Types of Lung Cancer
Tumors in the lungs are divided into two types: non-small lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer is by far the most common type of lung cancer. It spreads slowly and surfaces as one of three varieties: large cell lung cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma. These types tend to remain isolated in the lungs, meaning lung metastases are less common among them.
Conversely, small cell lung cancer is much more aggressive than non-small lung cancer and rapid formation of lung metastases in other organs in the body is likely. Both types are treatable if caught early, but neither is curable.
Other types of lung cancer include pleural mesothelioma, silicosis, carcinoid tumor, and bronchioalveolar carcinoma.
Contact a Lung Cancer Attorney
If you or someone you love developed lung cancer or a lung disease as a result of exposure to a dangerous substance, you may be entitled to a legal settlement for your condition. To learn about you legal rights, it is important to contact a lung cancer attorney in your state.