What is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is a type of condition developed in the lungs, and causes certain mutations in the cells of the organ, causing the cells to grow and multiply when they should not. This excessive growth of the cells leads to the formation of tumors.
There are typically two types of lung cancer diagnosed by the doctors i.e. small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer may not invade surrounding tissues and may not call for immediate treatment but the Small cell lung cancer spreads comparatively faster and requires immediate treatment.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer symptoms for both small cell and non-small cell lung cancer is the same and may include:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Lingering or worsening cough
- Coughing up phlegm or blood
- Chest pain that worsens when you laugh, cough or breathe deeply
- Bone pain
- Weakness and fatigue
Who is at risk
Below mentioned people are at higher risk:
- Active Smokers
- Passive smokers
- Exposure to Radon. It is a naturally occurring gas that can get trapped in buildings
- Exposure to other substances like Arsenic, Asbestos, silica and chromium
- Family history of lung cancer
- Cancer survivors who had radiation therapy in the past
Causes of Lung Cancer
While anyone can get lung cancer, one of the major reasons for lung cancer is smoking. Other lung cancer causes include exposure to hazardous substances and radioactive gases over a long period of time. Some of the substances that cause lung cancer are:
- Some petroleum products
P.S. People with a family history of a member with lung cancer have a higher risk of lung cancer. It’s best to consult a lung cancer doctor to understand your vulnerability to the disease.
How is lung cancer diagnosed?
Lung cancer generally does not show signs or symptoms in the early stages. The symptoms may start showing up with the advancement of the disease making an early lung cancer diagnosis difficult.
On a physical examination, if a person is experiencing symptoms that could indicate lung cancer, the doctor may ask you to take some specific lung cancer tests. These may include:
- Imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, CT, and PET scans, which reveal more details about the lung tissues and aid in finding any small lesions.
- Lab testing called sputum cytology where a microscopic examination is carried out of the phlegm produced during coughing to check for the presence of any cancer cells.
If a lung cancer doctor identifies any suspicious lesion on an imaging study, they may further suggest taking a tissue sample to test for potentially cancerous cells.
If the tissue sample tests positive for cancer, further lung cancer test such as bone scan and other imaging tests are carried out to map the spread of cancer and help with staging.
Treatment of lung cancer
Lung cancer treatment depends on several factors like the location of the tumor, the stage of cancer, and the overall health condition of the patient.
Possible treatments for lung cancer include:
- Surgery: A doctor may operate to remove the cancerous lung tissue. Sometimes a large segment of the lung or an entire lung may be removed.
- Chemotherapy: Drugs and medicines are used to reduce or eradicate cancer cells. These drugs target the rapidly dividing cells and are more significantly used in the treatment of cancers that have spread to different body parts.
- Radiation Therapy: This therapy is used in cancers that occur in one place and have not spread yet. It involves the usage of high energy rays to kill the cancerous cells. Sometimes these rays are used to shrink a cancerous tumor before removing it surgically.
- Targeted Therapy: This procedure uses specific medicine for lung cancer that specifically targets a particular behaviour in the cancer cells.
Lung cancer cure is usually handled by a team of specialized medical experts. They may include:
- Lung specialists or pulmonologists
- Medical oncologists
- Radiation oncologists
- Pulmonary therapists
How can lung cancer be prevented?
There is no sure way of lung cancer prevention. However, the risk can be reduced if you pay attention to the lung cancer risk factors:
- Active and Passive Smoking: If you’re not a smoker, do no start. Quitting smoking at any point, even if you have been smoking for years, can reduce your risk of lung cancer. It is important to understand and teach your family about this major risk factor for lung cancer that should be avoided at any cost. Doctors can suggest strategies to reduce or quit smoking like medications, nicotine supplements, etc.
- Avoid harmful substances: Make sure you test your home for radon and make your home safer. Avoid carcinogens at the workplace by taking personal safety measures such as wearing a mask and following your employer’s precautions.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Have a healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy and well-balanced diet that provides you with all the nutrition. Make sure you exercise regularly to keep your body strong and healthy.