What is lung Cancer?
It is a group of cancers that start in the lungs and affect them.
It happens when cells in the lungs develop into cancer cells (malignant). These cells may spread to nearby tissue and lymph nodes under the arm (metastasize).
Lymph nodes help fight infection and keep organs working properly. If any of these cells break away from where they started, This cancer becomes active.
The types of lung cancer include:
- Small Cell – Less than 15%
- Large Cell – 15-30%
- Squamous Cell – 20-40%
- Adenosquamous – 10-20%
- Epidermoid – 5-15%
- Adenocarcinoma – 2-10%
- Carcinoids – 0.5%
There are two ways Lung Cancer spreads:
- Directly – spread from the primary tumor to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic system.
- Indirectly – spread from distant sites to the lungs through the bloodstream.
The American Lung Association reports that lung cancer kills almost 160,000 people each year in America alone.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and accounts for over 20% of all cancer deaths.
In 2012 alone, about 157,480 Americans died of lung cancer, making it the number 1 killer of both men and women.
Factors That Cause Lung Cancer
Smoking cigarettes is the biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer.
Lung cancer occurs when cigarette smoke irritates the cells lining the lungs, causing them to become damaged and eventually develop mutations.
Other factors that contribute to lung cancer include radon gas, air pollution, asbestos exposure, secondhand smoke, and even certain genetic disorders.
1. Cigarette smoking
Cigarettes are known to cause lung cancer. Inhalation of smoke from cigarettes causes inflammation inside out lungs.
Over time, cigarette smoke damages alveoli and increases the risk of developing lung cancers.
2. Secondhand smoke
Secondhand smoke is caused by toxic chemicals emitted from tobacco smoked by others.
It contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, ammonia, heavy metals, carbon dioxide, and many carcinogenic compounds. Studies have shown that secondhand smoke increases the risk of contracting lung cancer.
3. Radon gas
Radon gas is radioactive material that comes from natural occurring uranium deposits underground.
It is released into our air due to cracking of the ground from mining or digging activities.
It is present in homes built before 1980 where radon migrated through cracks in the foundation.
When breathed in, it lodges in the lungs and remains there indefinitely over time.
There is no safe level of exposure to radon; therefore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that those who live in homes with high levels of radon should get them tested.
If your home has high radon levels, you may want to consider moving.
Symptoms of Lung cancer
There are no obvious symptoms associated with lung cancer until advanced stages of disease have developed, when they may include coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pains, weight loss, unintended weight gain and fatigue.
Other risk factors for developing lung cancer include smoking tobacco products, exposure to certain chemicals, radiation therapy and some genetic conditions.
Coughing is often associated with lung cancer. In fact, coughing is one of the first symptoms of lung cancer that people experience. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, chances are good that you’ve had at least one bout of coughing.
When you cough, mucus dries out and becomes hard and crusty. This makes it difficult to clear the airways and causes irritation and inflammation. As a result, coughing may become worse over time.
Hoarseness is another symptom of lung cancer. People who have lung cancer tend to develop hoarseness due to the constant irritation caused by the dryness of their lungs.
Their vocal cords do not produce sound well and they may even lose their voice completely.
3. Difficulty breathing
Difficulty breathing is yet another sign of lung cancer. You may notice that you’re having trouble taking deep breaths.
Your chest tightens and you feel short of breath. This is because your lungs are inflamed and irritated, making it harder to breathe properly.
4. Chest pain
Chest pain is a symptom of lung cancer that many patients experience. You may find yourself experiencing sharp pains in your chest. These are likely to occur just before you pass out.
5. Weight loss
Weight loss is a typical symptom of lung cancer. Patients who have lung cancer often lose weight.
They may also experience fatigue and weakness. Losing weight is a side effect of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy kills cells throughout the body, including those in the lungs.
6. Nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are both symptoms of lung cancer.
You might feel nauseous if you have a tumor pressing on your stomach. Or, you may feel nauseated if you have a tumor blocking your esophagus.
Vomiting is similar to throwing up. However, instead of getting rid of food, you throw up liquid.
7. Painful urination
Painful urination is another symptom of lung cancer. You may feel burning or stinging sensations while urinating. If you have lung cancer, your bladder may swell, causing painful urination.
Treatments for Lung Cancer
There are two types of treatments for lung cancer: surgery and chemotherapy.
Surgery is the first step if the cancer has not spread outside of the original site.
Chemotherapy is a treatment option for those who have already had their tumor removed. Some patients may need both therapies.
- Radiotherapy – radiation therapy uses high-energy waves (X-rays) to kill cancer cells. It may also destroy surrounding normal cells, causing damage to healthy tissues or organs. If you have had radiotherapy before, you should tell your doctor.
- Surgery – surgery removes the tumor and any nearby abnormal tissues. Most people do not need surgery. But sometimes they may use a biopsy to remove small samples of the abnormal tissue for examination under a microscope. You may also need chemotherapy or radiation treatment after surgery.
- Chemotherapy – chemotherapy kills cancer cells without damaging normal cells. Chemotherapy drugs work by stopping cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. A combination of different drugs may be prescribed.
- Immunotherapy – immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment. Your immune system helps fight infection and disease. Drugs weaken certain parts of the immune system to make them less effective at fighting cancer.
- Targeted Therapy – targeted therapies focus on a specific substance or gene associated with cancer.
- Biological Therapies – biological therapies use substances similar to those produced naturally by the body. These treatments are based on research conducted in laboratories rather than clinical studies.
- Other Treatments – other treatments may help relieve symptoms or side effects caused by cancer or its treatment. Many types of treatments are still being investigated.
The price of lung cancer treatment in India is quite reasonable and hence many people get there treatment as soon as possible.
Prevention of lung cancer
There are several ways by which you can prevent cancer:
Avoid passive smoking
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 80% of tumors caused by cigarette smoke occur in people who have never smoked cigarettes.
The link between tobacco use and lung cancer was first discovered in 1908, and despite efforts to reduce its prevalence, around 13 million deaths occur each year due to lung cancers worldwide.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol is widely known as a carcinogen, and scientists have noted that even moderate drinking raises the risk of developing certain types of liver cancer.
Drinking alcohol also increases the amount of acetaldehyde in your body, which can damage DNA and cause cancerous mutations.
Stop using tobacco products
Tobacco products have been proven to cause bladder cancer, oral cancers, heart disease, stroke, emphysema, and respiratory infections.
According to the Cancer Research UK, the biggest risks associated with tobacco are not related to nicotine, but rather the tar and carbon monoxide contained in cigarettes.
Eat well-balanced diet
The WHO’s Food Safety Program states that diets high in fat, sugar, and salt increase the risk for certain forms of cancer, including colon, breast, endometrial, and esophageal cancers. Eating foods rich in fiber and antioxidants minimizes these risks.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology says that exercise reduces the risk of several types of cancers, particularly colon, prostate, and leukemia cancers.
It increases the levels of natural killer cells in your immune system, making it a powerful tool against tumor formation and metastasis.
Stress causes your blood pressure to spike, which makes it difficult to regulate oxygen flow to the brain and other organs.
Studies show that chronic stress increases the rate of tumor growth and recurrence.
Get enough sleep
Studies suggest that people who get less than six hours of sleep per night have a higher chance of developing cancer.
Sleeping well helps the body repair damaged cells and release toxins, which keeps the body clean and free from harmful chemicals.
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