What is Different About Lung Cancer in Women?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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There are several differences pertaining lung cancer in women when compared to malignancies found in men. Symptoms, the type of cancer, and the causes of cancer can differ between men and women, and death rates for women are often lower than they are in men. Non-smoking women are also more likely to get lung cancer than non-smoking men. The rate of cancer occurrences is also growing in females, while the rates of lung cancer in men is slowly declining.

One of the main and most dangerous differences issues involving lung cancer in women is that symptoms often do not show up until the cancer is progressed. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with cancers which occur in the outer tissues of the lungs, usually with less symptoms when compared to men, who are often diagnosed with cancer of the inner lungs. This can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. This lowers the overall survival rate, although women still have higher long-term survival rates than men.


Lung cancer in women may also be caused by factors which do not apply to men. Although smoking is the most common cause of lung cancers in both men and women, there is some indication that estrogen may pay a role in the development of lung cancer in women. Females who have their ovaries removed before menopause appear to be more likely to develop cancer than those who don’t. The exact reasons for this are not known. Women who already have lung cancer and receive hormone replacements are also more likely to die of the disease than those who use no synthetic hormones. Hormone use does not seem to increase the risk of getting cancer in the first place, however.

Treatments for lung cancer in women are similar to those used in men. Chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation are all common treatments. Women have been shown to respond better to certain drugs than the ones men respond to, and surgery seems to be more effective at treating cancer in females than in males. Both men and women are candidates for lung transplant if they have stage three cancer or higher.

The overall survival rates of lung cancer are relatively low for both men and women who are diagnosed with the disease. As with most cancers, survival rates are increased in those who are diagnosed early and who receive prompt treatment. Cancer which is confined to the lungs is easier to treat than cancers which have spread to other areas of the body. Lung cancer is often preventable, since smoking is the leading underlying cause of lung cancer.


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