Before diving into the symptoms, causes and the relative diagnosis, lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the world. It is a condition that causes cells to divide in the lungs uncontrollably. Which is rapid than that of the other cancers. This causes the growth of tumors that reduce a person’s ability to breathe.
US, India and other countries that are highly metro populated have endorsed this with all their ignorance. The diagnosis in these countries led to an understanding that the diagnosis was far too late in treating the patients.
Early diagnosis can help a person seek treatment, as early as possible, in the disease’s course.
This article walks you through symptoms, facts and causes, diagnosis & treatments that can put the individual out of misery.
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is one of the deadly diseases that cause mutations in cells. Cancer causes certain mutations in otherwise healthy cells.
Typically, the body programs cells to die at a certain stage in their life cycle to avoid overgrowth. Cancer overrides this instruction, causing cells to grow and multiply when they should not.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Identifying lung cancer in its earliest stages can be difficult, however, because the symptoms may be similar to those of a respiratory infection, or there may be no symptoms at all.
The overgrowth of cells leads to the development of tumors and the harmful effects of cancer. In lung cancer, this pattern of cell overgrowth occurs in the lungs, which are vital organs for breathing and gas exchange.
However, this deadly disease has the following symptoms:
- Appetite loss
- Changes to a person’s voice, such as hoarseness
- Frequent chest infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Lingering cough that may start to get worse
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained headaches
- Weight loss
Causes of lung cancer:
The incidence of lung cancer is strongly correlated with cigarette smoking. About 93% of lung cancer is due to the use of tobacco.
Apart from the people who smoke, there are non-smoking people who are subject to lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked over time.
The doctors refer to this risk in terms of pack-years of smoking history (the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked).
The inhalation of second-hand tobacco smoke from other smokers sharing living or working quarters is also an established risk factor for the development of lung cancer. This brutal than the smoke of tobacco alone.
The analysis covers that the non-smokers who reside with a smoker have a 24% increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with other non-smokers.
These are silicate fibers that can persist for a lifetime in lung tissue following exposure to asbestos. As deadly as it sounds, the pain is terrible when we question the breathing.
The workplace is a common source of exposure to asbestos fibers, as asbestos was widely used in the past for both thermal and acoustic insulation materials.
The chemical explanation of Radon gas is a natural, chemically inert gas that is a natural decay product of uranium. It decays to form products that emit a type of ionizing radiation. Radon gas is known as the cause of lung cancer, with an estimated 12% of lung cancer deaths attributable to radon gas.
While the majority of lung cancers are associated with tobacco smoking, the fact that not all smokers eventually develop lung cancer suggests that other factors, such as individual genetic susceptibility, may play a role in the causation of lung cancer.
Diagnosis of Lung Cancer:
The doctor finds it suspicious clue leading to lung cancer, there are chances for lung cancer screening. If the symptoms indicate severely then several high priority diagnostics tests are available. These include:
- Studies of Imaging: Computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans might reveal areas of lung tissue with cancer.
- Bone scans can also indicate cancerous growths. Doctors may also use these scans to track the progress of treatment or to ensure cancer has not returned, following a course of treatment.
- Imaging provides a road map of the treatment’s progression.
- Tissue sampling: If a doctor identifies a suspicious lesion on an imaging study, they may recommend taking a sample of lung tissue to test for potentially cancerous cells.
- Apparently, there are various methods to obtain the samples and the method clearly depends on the location of the lesion.
- An example, when a doctor performs a bronchoscopy, which involves inserting a special thin, lighted scope with a camera on the end. This helps the doctor to see the lesion and then to obtain samples.
- Lab testing: A doctor may also order sputum testing or blood testing to check for the presence of lung cancer.
- It is much clearer to the oncologist to determine what type of lung cancer may be present, and how advanced these diseases has become.
The significance of early diagnosis:
The antidote to lung cancer lies in the early diagnosis.
This is because lung cancer cells can travel to other areas of the body before a doctor detects them in the lungs. In lung cancer metastasis is rapid than the other cancers, it makes treating the disease, much more difficult.
Screenings are most recommended during this time by the oncologists. They use a low dose CT scanner to perform this. Not everyone is a candidate for this screening, but it can help doctors identify lung cancer earlier in some individuals.
Stages of Lung Cancer:
The staging of cancer indicates how far it has spread through the body and its severity. This classification helps clinicians support and direct treatment for the best results.
Each stage determines whether cancer has or has not spread or has spread to nearby lymph nodes. It may also take into account the number and size of the tumors. The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which connects to the rest of the body. If cancer reaches these, it can metastasize, or spread further, becoming more dangerous.
Staging for lung cancer is extremely complex and extensive with several sub-groups within each stage.
Initially, clinicians divide it into small cell and non-small cell classifications.
Staging definitions may vary, but doctors typically stage non-small cell lung cancer using the tumor size and the spread to guide them in the following way:
Hidden: Cancer does not show on imaging scans, but cancerous cells might appear in the phlegm or mucus and may have reached other parts of the body.
Stage 0: The doctor finds abnormal cells only in the top layers of cells lining the airways.
Stage I: A tumor has developed in the lung, but is under 5 centimeters (cm) and has not spread to other parts of the body.
Stage II: The tumor is smaller than 5 cm and might have spread to the lymph nodes in the area of the lung, or smaller than 7 cm and spread to nearby tissues but not lymph nodes.
Stage III: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and reached other parts of the lung and surrounding area.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant body parts, such as the bones or brain.
Small cell lung cancer has its own categories, limited and extensive, referring to whether cancer has spread within or outside the lungs.
Treatments for lung cancer depend on its location and stage, as well as the overall health of the individual.
Surgery and radiation are the most common approaches to treating lung cancer, but other treatments are available. For example, doctors often treat small cell lung cancer with chemotherapy.
Possible treatments include:
- Surgery: A doctor may operate to remove cancerous lung tissue and tissue in the surrounding areas where cancer may have spread. This sometimes involves removing a lobe or large segment of the lung in a procedure called a lobectomy.
- In severe cases, the surgeon may remove a lung in its entirety. A person can live without a lung, but being in good health prior to surgery helps to improve outcomes after lung removal.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to shrink or eradicate cancer cells. These medications target rapidly dividing cells, which makes them ideal for treating cancer.
- Chemotherapy treatment has a more significant impact on cancers that have spread to different parts of the body and require a body-wide attack. However, chemotherapy is a powerful intervention and can have side effects including extreme nausea and weight loss.
- Radiation therapy: This approach uses high-energy rays to kill cancerous cells. A doctor may also use radiation to shrink a tumor before removing it surgically. Radiation therapy is mainly useful on cancers that occur in one location and have not spread.
- Targeted therapy: This is the use of particular medications that specifically target a particular behaviour in cancer cells. Examples include medicines that stop cancer cells from multiplying.
Lung cancer treatment often involves the collaboration of medical experts in many areas. These specialists may include:
- Radiation oncologists
- Specialists in lung treatment called pulmonologists
- Pulmonary therapists