Lung cancer accounts for the most cancer-related deaths in both men and women. More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
Each year, there will be an estimated 221,000 new cases of lung cancer in the United States: 115,000 cases among men and 106,000 among women, according to the American Cancer Society. Experts predict that this year about 157,000 people will die of lung cancer. While many believe that lung cancer is caused solely by smoking, close to 24,000 non-smokers will also die. Many non-smokers get lung cancer not only from secondhand smoke but also environmental factors, such as radon, asbestos, and beryllium.
Lung cancer is such a deadly disease because it can grow for many years before it is diagnosed and often spreads before it is found. Once lung cancer occurs, cancer cells can break away and metastasize to other parts of the body. Most patients are between 55 to 65 years old when they are diagnosed. Sadly, the overall five-year survival rate in patients with the different types of lung cancer is less than 10%. However, when lung cancer is found before it has spread to other organs and can be removed by surgery; the five-year survival rate improves to 35 to 40%.
Source: American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2011. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2011