FAST FACTS

ABOUT LUNG CANCER

The more you know about your opponent, the more prepared you’ll be to play your best game. Learning about lung cancer can help you better understand the disease, your risk and what you can do to help you take control of your health.

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a disease that starts in the cells of the lung. Cells in the lung sometimes change and no longer grow or behave normally. A cancerous (malignant) tumour is a group of cancer cells that can grow into and destroy nearby tissue.

fun facts

Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lung cancers are divided into non–small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer, based on the kind of cell that the cancer started in:

  • Small cell lung cancerUsually starts in the cells that line the bronchi in the centre of the lungs.
  • Non–small cell lung cancerMore common than small cell lung cancer. It usually starts in glandular cells on the outer part of the lung. It may also begin in the cells that line the bronchi.

Other types of cancer can spread to the lungs from other parts of the body; this is called lung metastasis. There is also a rare type of cancer, which is not lung cancer, called pleural mesothelioma, that starts in the membrane around the lungs.

Quick stats and highlights

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It is estimated that lung cancer will be the most commonly diagnosed cancer and will be responsible for 25% of cancer death in Canada in 2021.

  • In 2021 alone, lung cancer is expected to account for an estimated 29,600 new diagnoses and 21,150 deaths
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Canada has one of the highest rates of lung cancer cases and deaths in the world.

In 2021:

  • It is estimated that 1 in 15 Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime
  • It was estimated that 1 in 4 cancer deaths will be from lung cancer
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Early detection of lung cancer is key to improving your chance of survival. However, a 2020 Canadian Cancer Society report showed that around 50% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at Stage 4 and approximately 21% are diagnosed at Stage 1.

  • The estimated percentage of people who are still alive after 3 years for lung cancer diagnosed at Stage 4 is around 5%

Only about 21% of lung cancers are diagnosed at Stage 1.

  • The estimated percentage of people who are still alive after 3 years for lung cancer diagnosed at Stage 1 is over 70%

A major reason lung cancer is diagnosed at a late stage is that symptoms are often unnoticeable at early stages.

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Among Canadians younger than 55 years of age, lung cancer cases and death rates are higher in females than males.

Lung cancer survival is generally higher among females than males across almost all age groups, cancer types, geographic areas and stages of disease.

If you think you’re at risk or have symptoms of lung cancer, talk to your doctor right away. Finding lung cancer early is key!

If you think you’re at risk or have symptoms of lung cancer, talk to your doctor right away. Finding lung cancer early is key!

Download the Early Detection Discussion Guide