This is What Lung Cancer Looks Like

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States today and the most preventable, with approximately 87% of cases being attributable to tobacco use.  This is true for every ethnic group and both men and women. More than 400 Americans die of lung cancer every day in the U.S., according to the Lung Cancer Alliance.

Lung Cancer Stories:

Diagnosed with Small Cell Lung Cancer - Cheryl's Story

My Journey Through Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer - Dee's Story

The images of lung cancer below give you an idea of how this disease looks in the human body.

Normal Human Lungs

human lungs
Illustration of healthy lungs in the human body. Science Picture Co/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

This illustration of normal, undamaged human lungs shows where the lungs are in the body along with the "upside-down tree" formation of the trachea and bronchial tubes that end with alveoli.

The lungs are the organs responsible for respiration, or breathing, and are located in the chest cavity. The alveoli are small sacs within the lungs where oxygen is exchanged.

Normal Alveoli - Close Up

Illustration of alveolar sacs in lungs - close up. Science Picture Co/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

This is what alveoli in the lungs look like.  The very tiny little "bubbles" in this illustration show where the gas/blood exchange happens.  When we inhale, oxygen from the air passes through the alveoli and into the bloodstream where it is distributed throughout the body.  Similarly, when we exhale, carbon dioxide is released through these delicate little sacs.

The toxins in cigarette smoke can break the walls between alveoli, creating larger and less sacs that are less efficient at gas/blood exchange.

Lung Cancer in the Alveoli

lung cancer inside of an alveolus sac
Lung cancer inside of an alveolus sac. Magnification: x875 at 6x7cm size. x3000 at 8x10'. Moredun Animal Health, LTD/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

This image, taken with a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and then colored, shows a tiny lung cancer tumor inside of a single alveolus, the air sacs that are responsible for the gas/blood exchange in the lungs.

Bronchial Cancer Chest X-Ray

bronchial cancer x ray
X Ray of bronchial cancer. BSIP/UIG/Getty Images

This chest x-ray shows bronchial cancer in the right lung area (left side of image as you're looking at it).  The bronchial tubes are the two large airways that branch off of the trachea.  Most cases of bronchial cancer are squamous cell lung cancer, which is a form of non-small cell lung cancer. 

A Group of Lung Cancer Cells

Lung cancer cells. Image taken with colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM). STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

This group of lung cancer cells was captured by a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and then color enhanced. Cancer cells are large with cytoplasm projections that make the surface rough and bumpy.  Cancer cells reproduce in an uncontrolled fashion, often clumping into tumors.

Lung Cancer X-Ray

lung cancer x-ray
Color enhanced x-ray of cancerous tumor in the right lung. Du Cane Medical Imaging LTD/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

In this color enhanced x-ray, a cancerous tumor is present in the right lung (orange mass on left side) of this 64 year old male lung cancer patient.

PET Scan of Lung Cancer

PET scan of a lung cancer tumor on left lung
PET scan showing a lung cancer tumor on left lung. Photostock - Israel/Cultura/Getty Images

This image was taken by positron emission tomography (PET) scan.  It shows a cancerous tumor (yellow dot) on the upper left lung lobe of a 54 year old man.

CT Scan of Lung Cancer

CT Scan of lung with tumor
CT scan showing tumor in upper left lung lobe. PhotoStock - Israel/Cultura/Getty Images

This is how a CT (x-ray computed tomography) scan of the lungs looks.  The dark area is the left lung of a 54 year old man.  The white spot in the upper area is a tumor.

Quit Smoking To Minimize Your Lung Cancer Risk

Quitting tobacco isn't easy, but it is something you can do successfully with education and support. Use the resources here at Smoking Cessation to get started on your quit smoking program today.

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