Lung cancer is a condition that develops due to unusual growths, cancers that is, which appear on the lungs. This illness leads all other types of cancers when it comes to deaths in the U.S. for both males and females, as well as across the globe. In fact, when it comes to the U.S., more deaths are caused by lung cancer than breast, prostate, or colon and rectal cancers combined.
While all cancers are terrible, what makes lung cancer so dangerous is that most of the condition’s tumors are malignant; meaning they destroy and invade healthy tissues that surround them and spread throughout and individual’s body. The lung itself contains a plentiful network of lymphatic channels and blood vessels for the cancer cells to easily spread.
Lung cancer is categorized into two types, and this is determined by the appearance of the lung cancer cells when viewed under a microscope during diagnosis. The types of lung cancers are important to note as treatment options are also based on which type of lung cancer a patient has. These two lung cancer types are:
Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC): This type of lung cancer occurs most often in heavy smokers and is less common than the other type of lung cancer below.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC): This type of cancer is an umbrella grouping for other types of lung cancers that unfold in similar ways. Cancers that fall under this NSCLC grouping include: large cell carcinoma, swamous cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma.
Below is an overview of this condition, with the top signs and symptoms of lung cancer, as well as treatments, causes, and prevention.
Signs and Symptoms
The promising news about lung cancer is that if it is detected early enough, patients can survive this illness and be free of recurrence five years after the fact. Sadly, if the cancer involves metastatic tumors, which spreads to other organs, then that five-year survival rate becomes less than five percent.
Therefore, it is key to be tuned into the signs and symptoms of this illness; however, having said that, approximately 25 percent of all lung cancer sufferers report no symptoms during diagnosis. The cancer tends to be detected during a chest X-ray for another ailment. Still, a lot of individuals do report signs and symptoms of the illness, and these are outlined below:
• Coughing, more than just around the time of a cold.
• For instance, an ex-smoker or current smoker should raise an eyebrow around a new cough.
• A cough that won’t go away or get worse as the time goes by.
• Coughing up blood.
• Shortness of breath and chest pain.
• Hoarseness or wheezing.
• Constant respiratory infections, like pneumonia or bronchitis.
When it comes to metastatic lung tumors, signs and symptoms vary upon the size of them and the location within the body they’ve hit. Approximately 40 percent of lung cancer patients will see some signs or symptoms around these metastatic tumors. Most lung cancers spread to the adrenal glands, liver, the brain, and bones. Some are symptoms that may develop in these areas include:
• If the metastatic tumors have spread to an individual’s liver, they might suffer from a loss of appetite, feeling full very quickly, and notice an unexplained weigh loss.
• When it comes to the bones, individuals will generally experience pain in the vertebrae (backbone), femurs (thigh bones), ribs, and pelvic bones.
• Metastatic tumors that show up in the brain cause issues with vision, seizures, and/or weakness to side of the body.
• Unfortunately, metastatic tumors to the adrenal glands generally create no signs or symptoms that the patient notices.
There are a few factors that doctors consider before placing a lung cancer patient on specific treatments, and these include the type of cancer (SCLC versus NSCLC) they have, the location of the tumor, and the stage it is at; not to mention the health level of the patient. Regardless, the primary options of treatment tend to be: radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery to remove the cancer. Immunotherapy and target therapies drugs have also become common lung cancer treatments now days, too. Palliative care is also available for lung cancer patients, where tactics are used to reduce suffering and pain, versus curing the illness.
The most common cause of lung cancer is cigarette smoking, with research that supports this link dating back to the 1950s. Below are some facts around the connection between smoking and lung cancer:
• Cigarettes contain over 4,000 toxic chemicals, where a majority of them have been revealed as cancer-causing.
• Individuals who smoke over a pack daily increase their chances of developing lung cancer by about 25 times.
• If a smoker decides to break the bad habit, they decrease their risk gradually. Fifteen years of non-smoking reduces the chances for lung cancer to the same level as someone who has never tried the bad habit at all.
• Pipe and cigar smoking increases lung cancer risks; however, not to the capacity that cigarettes do.
The risk of developing lung cancer and smoking is directly linked to the following:
• How many cigarettes are smoked daily
• The age where the individual started
• How long they have been smoking, or how long they had before they quit.
While a smoker increases their risk of lung cancer, a non-smoker increases chance chances of developing the illness due to the following:
• Second-hand smoke or passive smoking.
• Air pollution, and prolonged exposure to this polluted air.
• Exposure to asbestos.
• Developing the following lung diseases also increases one’s risk to getting lung cancer:
• Tuberculosis (TB)
• Chronic Obstructive Disease (COPD)
• Radon exposure, which is a byproduct of organically occurring radium, a product of uranium. This can be present within outdoor and indoor air.
• Jobs where workers are exposed to chromium, nickel, arsenic, ethers, aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as other toxic chemicals.
While you can’t prevent developing lung cancer, you can reduce the risks by doing the following:
Stop Smoking: If you smoke, try and quit. Breaking the bad habit decreases your chances of developing lung cancer significantly. Talk to you doctor about quitting strategies or do some research online. Reach out to family and friends for support.
Second-Hand Smoke: If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Moreover, try and avoid areas where people do smoke, whenever possible.
Radon Testing At Home: Ensure you check radon levels within your home, on a regular basis.
Precautions At Work: Ensure to take steps to protect yourself from toxic chemicals you may be exposed to while on the job. Always wear a face mask if you are given one at work and talk to your employers about any areas of concern. You can also talk to your doctor about additional ways you can protect yourself from inhaling these harmful chemicals.