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Lung Cancer - What Happens

Lung cancer can start anywhere in the lungs and may affect any part of the respiratory system camera.gif. This can cause breathing or heart problems, such as:

  • Pleural effusion, which is the buildup of fluid between the outer lining of the lungs and the chest wall. This is a common condition with lung cancer.
  • Coughing up large amounts of bloody sputum.
  • Collapse of a lung (pneumothorax).
  • Blockage of the airway (bronchial obstruction).
  • Recurrent infections, such as pneumonia.
  • Pericardial effusion, which is the buildup of fluid in the space between the heart and the sac around the heart (pericardium). This condition is not common with lung cancer.

As lung cancer grows, it may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Lung cancer is classified in stages, which describe how far the cancer has grown and spread.

The long-term outcome (prognosis) for lung cancer depends on how much the cancer has grown and spread.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 19, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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