What is Lung cancer?
The term cancer defines the abnormal division of cells in the human body. Lung cancer is the uncontrolled division of cancer cells in the lungs. This uncontrolled division of cancer cells results in bizarre lung structure, as the cancer cells affect the surrounding normal tissues. As a result, the normal lung cells lose their shape and ability to work. If not treated in time, lung cancer will spread to other organs. The most common organ affected is the brain. It is called metastatic brain cancer. The process of wy which cancer spreads to another part of the body is known as metastasis.
Bronchi, Pleural space, Lungs, Lymph nodes
What are the Causes of Lung Cancer?
These are the risk factors for lung cancer:
- Smoking: Smoking is the most predominant reason for lung cancer. A passive smoker is also vulnerable to acquiring lung cancer. The risk increases with increasing duration and frequency of smoking.
- Family History: Having a history of lung cancer increases the chance of getting lung cancer.
- Medical History: Some cancers already present in the body may spread to the lung tissues, resulting in Metastatic tumors in the lungs. The common cancers that spread to the lungs are breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, sarcoma, bladder cancer, neuroblastomas, and Wilms tumor.
- Radiation exposure:
- Radiation therapy.
- Frequently undergoing imaging tests like CT scans.
- Exposure to radioactive substances like radon.
- Immunodeficiency diseases: HIV kills selective immune cells in the body leading to an elevated risk of getting cancer.
- Industrial dust exposure: Increased exposure to asbestos, arsenic, silica, etc. could cause irreversible damage to your lungs that could lead to lung cancer.
What are the signs and symptoms of lung cancer?
Every person experiences a diverse range of symptoms. It varies from one person to another. The common symptoms are:
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Cough or sneeze with blood sputum
- Appetite loss
- Back pain/ Spinal pain
- Bone fracture
- Chest infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, etc.
Some other symptoms are serious lung problems like pleural effusion (fluid accumulation in pleural space or space between lung and chest cavity), and pericardial effusion (fluid accumulation around the heart).
Stages of Lung Cancer:
The stages of cancer growth are as follows:
Stage 0- Abnormal cells line the top layer of the airways.
Stage 1- A tumor that measures 4 cm or less. No distant metastasis/spread.
Stage 2- A tumor of size 7 cm or less. It has spread to nearby tissues and lymph nodes.
Stage 3- Cancer spreads to lymph nodes and other parts of the lungs.
Stage 4- Cancer is metastasized to the brain, bones, etc.
What are the treatments available for lung cancer?
Lung cancer is one of the most aggressive types of cancer, for which the treatment is also intense. The treatment might include two or more two managements. The treatment plan depends on the patient's status, cancer stage, and availability of treatment resources.
- Surgery: Depending on the stage, type, and extent of cancer, either the partial or entire side of the affected lung is removed. Procedures for lung removal include:
- Wedge resection- A small section of the lung with the tumor is removed.
- Segmental resection- A large portion of the lung is removed covering the entire cancer.
- Lobectomy- An entire lobe of a lung will be removed.
- Pneumonectomy- An entire lung will be removed. Necessarily, the particular side is removed, not both sides.
- Radiation therapy: This therapy uses radiation to ablate the cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: Chemo drugs can kill cancer cells. The drug will be administered intravenously (IV through veins in hand) or orally.
- Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drugs inhibit a particular mechanism of the cancer cell, thus killing abnormally-dividing cells.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy will strengthen your immune system, thus helping to combat the spread of cancer.
What are the risk factors that increase the chances of acquiring lung cancer?
Smoking, tobacco use, and industrial dust exposure for a very long time are some of the noted factors that make a person prone to developing lung cancer. An unhealthy diet, lifestyle, and bad habits might also cause lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Prevention
- Stop smoking - Smoking is the main causative factor for lung cancer. So, avoid smoking and passive exposure to smokers.
- Industrial health check-ups- If you are working in industries involving hazardous substances, do consider regular check-ups.
- Avoid radon exposure - Test your home for radon exposure. Inform the public health center, if any.
- Avoid air pollution - Wear a mask in highly polluted areas.
What are the tests used to detect lung cancer?
The tests used to detect lung cancer are imaging tests like X-ray and CT. This helps you find the extent of cancer in the lung. This is followed by sputum cytology and lung tissue biopsy, for finding the type of lung cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer, small cell lung cancer and carcinoid.
Epidemiology of Lung Cancer
- The epidemiology of lung cancer can be accessed based on factors like age, gender, and life habits.
- Smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancer.
- Lung cancer is more common in men than women, because of the smoking habit.
- Lung cancer is the most common cancer in men, and it is the fourth most common cancer in women.
The overall prognosis for lung cancer is not so convincing. Typically, the five-year survival rate for all stages of lung cancer was 16.8 percent in 2004. Also, women had better survival rates than men.
Lung cancer is an aggressive type of cancer that demands timely treatment. In most cases, cancer progresses to an advanced stage, irrespective of the treatment.
Pathophysiology of lung cancer
Potential exposure to carcinogens induces cancer growth. Smoking significantly contributes to 85% of total cases. As cancer grows it irritates the airway causing coughs, short breaths, wheezing, bloody sputum, and other related symptoms.
Possible complications of Lung Cancer
- The possible complications of lung cancer are opportunistic infections and fluid accumulation around the heart and lung cavity.
- Metastatic cancer in the brain is developed in most cases.
- Lung cancer is a potentially severe cancer with a high mortality rate.
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