Lung Cancer Treatment, Symptoms, and Causes

Lung cancer treatment
Lung cancer treatment, symptoms, and causes can help increase your chances of surviving the deadly condition. Lung cancer occurs when cancer cells divide uncontrollably in the lungs, resulting to the growth of tumors that affects the breathing mechanism. Just like other cancers, early diagnosis can help a person seek treatment and increase a person’s chance of surviving lung cancer. Identifying this disease in its earliest stages can be difficult because the symptoms may be similar to those of a respiratory infection, or there may be no symptoms at all.
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Normally, 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 rapidly and refusing to die. The overgrowth of cells leads to the development of tumors and cancer.
In lung cancer, the cell overgrowth occurs in the lungs, which are vital organs for breathing and gas exchange.
There are two types of lung cancer depending on how they appear under a microscope:
  • Small cell cancer
  • Non-small cell cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer is more common than small cell lung cancer. Certain factors like cigarette smoking and exposure to smoke can increase the chances of a person developing the condition. Lung cancer can develop if a person has a history of exposure to inhaled chemicals or other toxins.
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Exposure to chemicals and other toxins can accumulate over time and increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer, even if such exposure was a long time ago.
Now let’s discuss lung cancer symptoms, causes, and treatment in details.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Symptoms of lung cancer do not always occur until the condition has reached a later stage. However, some people may notice symptoms such as:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Severe headaches
  • Wheezing
  • Changes to a person’s voice, such as hoarseness
  • Recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis
  • lingering cough that may deteriorate
In severe cases, symptoms may include:
  • Severe chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Severe bone pain

Stages of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can be grouped or staged based on how far it has spread through the body and its severity. This classification helps with getting the right treatment for the best results.
Each stage determines whether cancer has or has not spread or has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Lung cancer may also take into account the number and size of the tumors.
The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which links to the rest of the body. If cancer reaches this stage, it can spread further, becoming more risky.
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:
  • Occult, or 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 unusual cells 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. Small cell lung cancer has its own categories, limited and extensive, referring to whether cancer has spread within or outside the lungs.

Risk factors

A number of factors may increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Some risk factors like quitting smoking can be controlled. Other factors like family history can’t be controlled.
Risk factors for lung cancer include:
  • Family history of lung cancer. You have an increased risk of lung cancer if your parent or siblings have the disease.
  • Your risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. Quitting can considerably reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Exposure to radon gas. Radon is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water that eventually becomes part of the air you breathe. Unsafe levels of radon can accumulate in any building, including homes.
  • Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens. Exposure to asbestos and other cancer-causing substances such as nickel, arsenic, and chromium at workplace can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke. Your risk of lung cancer increases if you’re exposed to secondhand smoke.
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Complications of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can cause complications. These can include:
  • Coughing up blood. Lung cancer can cause bleeding in the airway, which can cause you to develop a condition known as hemoptysis (coughing up blood). Treatments are available to control bleeding if it becomes severe.
  • Shortness of breath. People with lung cancer can experience shortness of breath if cancer grows to block the major airways. Lung cancer can also cause fluid to gather around the lungs, making it difficult for the affected lung to expand fully when breathing.
  • Advanced lung cancer that spreads to the lining of a lung or to another area of the body, such as a bone, can cause pain.
  • Fluid in the chest. Lung cancer can lead to pleural effusion, a condition where fluid accumulate in the space that surrounds the affected lung in the chest cavity.
  • Cancer that spreads to other parts of the body (metastasis).Lung cancer often spreads or metastasizes to other parts of the body, such as the brain and the bones.
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Prevention of Lung Cancer

You may not be able to prevent lung cancer in some cases, especially when it’s a case of hereditary. However, you can reduce your risk of developing the condition by:
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer. Don’t start smoking if you’ve never smoked before. Quitting tobacco reduces your risk of lung cancer, even if you’ve smoked for years. Talk to your doctor about strategies and stop-smoking aids that can help you quit.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke also increases your lung cancer risks. So, if you live or work with a smoker, urge him or her to quit. Avoid areas where people smoke, such as bars and restaurants.
  • Test your home for radon. Have the radon levels in your home checked, especially if you live in an area where radon is known to be a problem.
  • Avoid carcinogens at work. Protect yourself from exposure to deadly chemicals at work. Always wear a face mask for protection and ask your doctor what more you can do to protect yourself at work.
  • Eat diet full of fruits and vegetables .Choose a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Food sources of vitamins and nutrients are best. Avoid taking large doses of vitamins in pill form, because they may be harmful. For instance, researchers hoping to reduce the risk of lung cancer in heavy smokers gave them beta carotene supplements. Results showed the supplements actually increased the risk of cancer in smokers.
  • Exercise regularly.

Diagnosis

There are several diagnostic tests available to confirm lung cancer diagnosis. Examples of these include:
Imaging studies: These test might help reveal areas of lung tissue with cancer. Imaging studies include Computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Bone scans can also show cancerous growths.
Tissue sampling: A sample of any suspicious lesion of lung tissue during an imaging study lung may be taken to test for cancerous cells.
There are different ways to take a tissue sample, and the method often depends on the location of the lesion. A bronchoscopy may be performed by a doctor inserting a thin, lighted scope with a camera on its end to help the doctor examine the lesion and obtain samples for testing.
Less accessible lesions in the lungs may require a more invasive surgical procedure to remove lung tissue, such as thoracoscopy or video-assisted thoracic surgery.
Lab testing: A doctor may also order sputum testing or blood testing to check for the presence of lung cancer.
A doctor will use these information to determine what type of lung cancer may be present, and how advanced the disease has become.

Lung Cancer Treatment

Lung cancer treatment depends on its location, stage, and the overall health of the individual. For lung cancer treatment, surgery and radiation are the most common approaches to treating lung cancer, but other treatments like chemotherapy are also available.
Possible lung cancer treatments include:
Surgery: This involves a surgeon removing 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.
The surgeon may remove the whole lung in severe cases. A person can live without a lung, but being in good health prior to surgery helps to improve results after lung removal.
Chemotherapy: This involves the use of drugs to shrink or remove cancer cells. These medications target rapidly dividing cells, making them ideal for cancer treatment.
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 is mainly useful on cancers that occur in one location and have not spread. It involves the use of high-energy rays to destroy cancerous cells. A doctor may also use radiation to shrink a tumor before removing it.
Targeted therapy: This uses a particular medication that precisely target a particular behavior 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:
  • surgeons
  • radiation oncologists
  • specialists in lung treatment called pulmonologists
  • pulmonary therapists

Wrapping Up

Lung cancer symptoms, causes, and treatment including the stages and complication has been discussed extensively in this article. Don’t hesitate to confer with your doctor immediately you notice any symptoms of lung cancer.  Lung cancer treatment is done using surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Your chances of survival is higher when lung cancer is detected timely.

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