Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"What's the difference between emphysema and lung cancer?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat's the difference between emphysema and lung cancer?


I know that smoking causes emphysema. What is it? What's the difference between it and lung disease or lung cancer. I'm a lifelong smoker and I get worried sometimes.


Emphysema is a disease of the lung tissue where the elastic nature of the lungs gets destroyed by the irritating effects of cigarette smoke. This causes the lungs to lose the ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide in the normal way and makes it harder for you to breath. Emphysema is often accompanied by chronic bronchitis which together is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD for short). Lung cancer is also a complication of smoking, but is a different disease entirely. Lung cancer occurs when one of the lung cells decides to begin growing and dividing out of control. It does this because of damage done to its DNA by the cigarette smoke. Both lung cancer and emphysema can be deadly and are often irreversible and difficult to treat. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can review some of the more common health issues that arise because of smoking. In addition, you can get information and help to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health. It won't be easy, but it is something you can accomplish if you decide you are going to do it.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.