Meaning of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs. It is the medical condition in which abnormal growth takes place in the cells of either one or both of the lungs, in most cases in the inner linings of the air passage.
The cells affected by the abnormal growth do not develop into the usual, healthy lung tissue but rather divides rapidly and results into malignant tumours.
Lung cancer can be broadly classified into 2 categories:
(1) Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
(2) Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLCL)
The most common type is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) which makes up about 80 to 85% of all cases. 30% of these start in the cells that form the lining of the body’s cavities and surfaces.
Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) is about 15 to 20 % of lung cancers. SCLC grows and spreads more faster than NSCLC.
In a few cases, lung cancer tumours contain both NSCLC and SCLC cells.
Mesothelioma is another type of lung cancer which is associated with asbestos exposure.
Most of the lung cancer cases are of NSCLC type, which is further divided into 4 categories:
Squamous cell carcinoma or epidermoid carcinoma:
This form of lung cancer is the most commonly occurring one and targets the cells in the lining of the bronchial tubes. This occurs generally in men.
This form of lung cancer is seen mostly in women. It occurs in the mucus-producing glands of the lungs. People who are complete nonsmokers can even get affected by this type.
The air sacs of the lungs are not a very common place for the development of lung cancer, but this rare type of NSCLC a tumour targets that particular area.
Large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma:
Forming near the outer edges and peripheral surface areas of the organ, this form of lung cancer is not so common but dangerous because of its rapid growth.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer symptoms can be confused with other regular physiological problems because of their nature.
Some people display very less or no symptoms at all. There are no alternative ways to know surely unless an X-ray or scan reveals the diagnosis.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer are:
- Constant coughing that does not go away
- Red or rust coloured phlegm when coughing or blood in it
- Immense chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Hoarseness in the voice
- A drastic change in weight
- The frequent occurrence of bronchitis and pneumonia
- Pain in the bones and limbs
- A headache
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Diagnosis of Lung Cancer
If you have been experiencing many of these symptoms of late, it is high time you should see a doctor. You can visit your general physician at first and explain in detail the duration, extent and severity of your symptoms.
X-rays and CT scans are the imaging tests. An X-ray image can reveal if there is an anomaly in the lungs, like a lump or a nodule inside. A CT scan is more detailed and specific imaging of smaller lesions that cannot be fully seen in the X-ray.
In the biopsy, a small tissue sample of the anomalous cell is taken to check the nature of the cells in the pathological lab – whether they are malignant or not.
It allows the doctor a look inside the airways of the lungs and makes it easier to take biopsies if the tumours exist there.
A sample of patient’s sputum (phlegm) is taken and seen under the microscope to detect signs of cancer cells in it or other lung fluids.
Positron Emission Topography (PET) and bone scans:
These are mostly to allow understanding in which stage the cancer is and whether it has spread beyond the lungs to other body parts.
Causes of Lung Cancer
Smoking is the most common reason for the lung cancer. However, nonsmokers can also get the tumour due to exposure to a variety of things present in the air:
- Coal and coke fumes
- Automobile exhaust
- Asbestos particles
- Silica and nickel
- Radon, a radioactive natural gas
- Passive smoking and/or exposure to the smoke of other people’s smoking
Prevention of Lung Cancer
- The first and most important step is to quit smoking if you do smoke.
- Avoiding passive smoking
- Regular check for levels of radon in your home
- Wearing the masks if you have to visit industrial areas with lots of asbestos particles
- Avoid supplements with beta-carotene, retinol and lutein. Studies have stated that these supplements, often taken without doctor’s consultation, can be a cause for lung cancer.
Treatment of Lung Cancer
The treatment for lung cancer depends on factors such as the stage, the part of the lungs where cancer has taken place, what side effects there might be and your general health.
When cancer has been contained to a part of the lungs, removing the affected part of the lungs by surgery is the ideal way. Lobectomy is the most common surgery for the treatment of lung cancer.
NSCLC which cannot be treated with lobectomy are treated in this technique in which the cells are killed with electric current via a needle.
Chemo medicines are inserted into the body via IV tubes over several sessions which target and kill the cells.
This therapy kills the cells with high energy X-rays pointed at the cells. Radiation can be performed as an associate treatment along with surgery and chemotherapy to reduce the size of a tumour.
Complications and Risks of Lung Cancer
Depending on the type of treatment, there can be a variety of complications, mostly in chemotherapy.
Lung cancer and back pain
Back pain is most common in the general population. It’s possible to have this cancer and unrelated back pain. Most individuals with back pain don’t have lung cancer.
Not everyone with lung cancer experiences the back pain, but many do. For few people, back pain turns out to be one of the first symptoms of this cancer.
Back pain can be because of the pressure of large tumours growing in the lungs. It can also mean that cancer has spread to a patient’s spine or ribs. As it starts grows, a cancerous tumour can cause compression or pressure of the spinal cord.
That can result into neurologic deterioration causing:
- A weakness of the legs and arms
- Loss of sensation in the legs and feet
- Urinary and bowel incontinence
- Interference with the spinal blood supply
Without proper treatment, back pain caused by cancer will continue to worsen. Back pain can improve if a treatment such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy can successfully remove the tumour.
In addition, the doctor can use corticosteroids or prescribe pain relievers like acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). For very severe pain, opioids like morphine or oxycodone may be needed.
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Lung cancer and smoking
Neither all smokers get lung cancer, nor everyone who has lung cancer is a smoker. But there’s no confusion that smoking is the biggest risk factor, responsible for 9 out of 10 lung cancers.
In addition to cigarettes, pipe smoking and cigar are also linked to lung cancer. The more someone smoke and for the longer duration, the higher risk of lung cancer.
Breathing in other people’s smoke also called passive smoking can increases the risk of lung cancer.
Tobacco products contain more than 7,000 chemicals, and at least 70 out of them are known to cause cancer.
When you inhale tobacco smoke, this mixture of chemicals is delivered directly to your lungs, where it may start causing damage.
The lungs can usually repair damage at first by its own, but the continued assault on lung tissue becomes harder to repair.
Former smokers are still at higher risk of developing lung cancer, but quitting can lower that risk considerably. Within ten years of quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer drops by half.
Home remedies for Lung cancer
- Mouth rinsing: to keep it from becoming dry.
- Water, fruit juice, and glucose content: to keep the body from dehydrating due to omitting and nausea.
- Maintaining a proper diet: as recommended by a professional doctor or dietician.
- Massage, Acupuncture, Meditation, Yoga and Hypnosis can help.
- Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer in both men and women excluding skin cancer.
- Men have a higher chance of contracting lung cancer.
- November month is the lung cancer awareness month.
- Around 80%-85% of cases are associated with smoking.
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