Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women, and over 150,000 Americans die from it each year. Although cigarette smoking causes most lung cancers, there are some other factors you are exposed to every day which will also put you at risk. Click through to find out lung cancer symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatments.
Lung cancer is a malignant lung tumor characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. Lung cancer claims more lives each year than colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancer combined.
Lung cancer typically doesn’t have any signs or symptoms in its early stages, but as it gets worse, you may notice:
1. a persistent cough (including coughing up blood)
2. Shortness of breath
3. Chest pain, especially during a deep breath
Cigarettes disarm the lungs’ natural defense system, and allow the contained cancer-causing chemicals (cigarette smoke contains at least 73 known carcinogens) to build up.
Smoking accounts for about 85% of lung cancer cases.
Those who live with someone who smokes have a 20-30% increase in risk while those who work in an environment with secondhand smoke have a 16-19% increase in risk.
The risk of lung cancer increases 8–16% for every 100 Bq/m³ increase in the radon concentration. Unsafe levels of radon can accumulate in any building (homes included), and you can use a simple test kit to detect it.
People who work with uranium, arsenic, and other chemicals are more likely to develop lung cancer. Workers who were exposed to asbestos used in insulation years prior are still at risk.
Outdoor air pollution from cars, factories, and power plants accounts for 1-2% of lung cancers. Indoor air pollution, such as the burning of wood, charcoal, dung or crop residue for cooking and heating, accounts for 1.5% of lung cancer deaths.
Lung cancer can be divided into two main types:
● Small Cell Lung Cancer: This type of lung cancer can spread quickly to other parts of the body early in the disease. It occurs almost exclusively in heavy smokers.
● Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: This type of lung cancer grows more slowly and accounts for 85% of all lung cancers.
Staging describes how far someone’s cancer has spread. Small-cell lung cancer can be divided into two stages:
● Limited Stage: The cancer is confined to one lung and maybe nearby lymph nodes.
● Extensive Stage: The cancer has spread to the other lung or beyond.
Non-small cell cancer is assigned a stage of I through IV, depending on how far it has spread.
A type of scan called spiral CT may pick up early lung cancers in some people when it may be treated more successfully. Several organizations recommend people at age 55-80 who smoke or used to smoke get a CT scan every year.
● Imaging tests. An X-ray image of your lungs may reveal an abnormal mass or nodule.
● Sputum cytology. If you have a cough and are producing sputum, examining the sputum under the microscope can sometimes reveal the presence of lung cancer cells.
● Biopsy. A small sample of the suspicious growth will be examined under a microscope. Biopsy can determine whether the tumor is lung cancer, and if so, what kind.
An operation can sometimes help treat non-small cell lung cancer before it spreads beyond one lung. The surgeon may remove the part of the lung with the tumor (sometimes the entire lung). Radiation or chemotherapy may be needed afterward to kill any remaining cancer cells.
If the cancer has spread too far to be cured, radiation and chemotherapy can help people live longer by helping shrink tumors and control symptoms. Chemotherapy is usually the main treatment for small-cell lung cancer.
● Targeted therapy. It is a new cancer treatment that works by targeting specific abnormalities in cancer cells. It is often used in combination with chemotherapy.
● Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy works with your immune system to fight advanced cases of non-small cell lung cancer. You’d also get chemotherapy.
Clinical trials are studies of experimental lung cancer treatments. Ask your doctor if you could join one if lung cancer treatments aren’t working for you.