Lung cancer is one most of the most common cancers which begin in the lungs. Lungs are the two vital organs which are present in your chest and bring in oxygen during inhaling and release carbon dioxide during exhaling. Lung cancer alarmingly been becoming the increasing cause of death worldwide, in both women and men. Lung cancer is caused due to the abnormal cells present in one or both lungs which multiply over time at a very fast rate, thereby affecting the healthy tissues, the growth most commonly starts off in the cells which line the air passages. When these abnormal cells grow rapidly, thy result in malignant tumours which are dangerous and life-threatening. Lung cancer is most common in patients over the age of 60 years. However, the symptoms of lung cancer may not be felt immediately and can take proper time until it is diagnosed. People who smoke are not the only ones who carry the greatest risk of lung cancer, as it can also catch people who have never smoked. But the risk of getting lung cancer goes up as you age and also depends on the number of cigarettes you've smoked. That's why quitting smoking is a good preventive measure, as even despite being a smoker for years, your chances of developing lung cancer can significantly drop.
The doctors have divided the lung cancer into two broad categories on the basis of how the lung cancer cells appear under the microscope. After diagnosing the type of lung cancer, the doctor makes the decision of how to go about the lung cancer treatment.
The two types of lung cancer are:
• Small cell lung cancer: Small cell lung cancer are mostly exclusively diagnosed people who are heavy smokers, and this type of lung cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer.
• Non-small cell lung cancer: Non-small cell lung cancer includes several types of lung cancers function in a somewhat similar way. Non-small cell lung cancers include squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
The symptoms of lung cancer for both types are basically the same.
Early symptoms of lung cancer may include:
• Worsening cough
• Phlegm or blood in a cough
• severe chest pain during breathing deeply, laughing or coughing
• hoarseness in voice
• weakness and fatigue
• loss of appetite
• Drastic weight loss
You may also easily catch respiratory infections like pneumonia or bronchitis.
As the abnormal cells continue to grow, cancer spreads across, forming new tumors and additional symptoms may come up, depending on the presence of that new tumor. For example,
• lymph nodes: lumps, in the neck or collarbone may be formed
• bones: pain in the bones, especially in the back, ribs, or hips
• brain or spine: a headache, balancing problems, dizziness, or numbness in the body
• liver: yellow colouration in the skin and eyes (jaundice)
All people can be susceptible to lung cancer, however, 90 per cent of lung cancer cases are due to heavy smoking. Another leading cause is the exposure a naturally existing radioactive gas, radon. Radon may enter the houses and the buildings even through minor cracks present in the foundation. People who are heavy smokers and are also exposed to radon carry a high risk of getting lung cancer. Inhaling hazardous chemical substances, especially over a long period of time, can also be the cause of lung cancer. Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer which occurs due to exposure to asbestos.
Other substances which can be causing lung cancer are:
• some petroleum products
Other risk factors include:
• the family history of lung cancer – a genetic cause
• the earlier history of having lung cancer, especially if you’re a smoker
• previous exposure to radiation therapy to the chest
After an initial consultation with the doctor, the doctor may do some physical examination and carry out the following tests for diagnosing the lung cancer. These tests include:
• Imaging tests: Tests like X-ray. MRI, CT, and PET scan to view the abnormal mass, i.e. the tumor growth.
• Sputum cytology: If your cough produces phlegm, then the microscopic examination is carried out to determine the presence of cancer cells.
If tumor cells are cancerous, then a biopsy is carried out. It includes:
• Needle Test
Lung cancer surgery: In the lung cancer surgery, the surgeon makes incisions in the chest to remove the lung cancer and a small portion of the healthy tissue. Different procedures carried out to remove lung cancer are:
• Wedge resection which is done by removing a small portion of the lung where the tumor is present along with a portion of healthy tissue
• Segmental resection which removes a relatively larger portion of the lung, but not an entire lobe
• Lobectomy which is done to remove the entire lobe of one lung
• Pneumonectomy which removes the entire lung
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is another common form of lung cancer treatment which is done over several weeks via administration of drugs via several kinds of injections to kill the cancer cells: drugs intravenously (IV), intra-arterially (IA), or via intraperitoneal (IP)
Targeted Chemotherapy: Unlike traditional chemotherapy, these drugs are used to selectively treat the affected area, thereby causing lesser damage to other parts of the system. Advanced medications can now directly target specific functions in cancer cells.
Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy is a lung cancer treatment that is widely used to treat inoperable tumor cells. Radiation Therapy consists of X-rays or even stronger waves like the Ultra-voilet (UV) rays. In some cases, chemotherapy is coupled with radiation therapy for a more effective ovarian cancer treatment.
People suffering from lung cancer not only have to experience signs and symptoms of cancer but also the side effects of the lung cancer treatment. Supportive care, which is also called palliative care, the branch of medicine in the which the doctor works with you in order to minimize your signs and symptoms.
If cancer has entered the lymph nodes and bloodstream, there are chances for it to spread across different parts of the body. Therefore, the lung cancer treatment is the most effective if it begins before cancer spreads outside the lungs.
Other factors such as age, overall health, your response to the treatment also govern the survival rate.
The following are the estimated five-year survival rates of lung cancer by stage:
• Stage 1: 45 to 49 per cent
• Stage 2: 30 to 31 per cent
• Stage 3A: 14 per cent
• Stage 3B: 5 per cent
• Stage 4: 1 per cent