Understanding Lung Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
Lung cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. It is one of the most common cancers in the world. It can develop in any part of the lung, and grow and spread to lymph nodes and other organs.
This cancer usually starts in the lining of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs), but can also begin in other areas of the respiratory system, including the trachea, bronchioles, or alveoli.
Types of Lung Cancer
There are two major types of lung cancer:
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which occurs in 85%– 90% of all cases
- Small cell lung cancer (SCLC), aggressive cancer that occurs in just over 10% of all lung cancer cases
However, not all cancer found in the lungs is lung cancer. A tumor in the lung could be cancer that originated in another part of the body (such as the breast or bladder) and has metastasized (spread) to the lungs. In this case, it would be metastatic breast cancer or metastatic bladder cancer, not lung cancer, and would be treated as the primary tumor.
What are the symptoms of Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer may not be evident in the early stages. However, in advanced stages, some of the following signs and symptoms can be present:
- Change in voice
- Tiredness and loss of energy
- Frequent chest infections
- A new cough that is lasting and does not subside with routine medications
- Spitting blood while coughing
- Persistence of an old cough with a change in sound, more painful or secreting thick mucus
- Pain in bones
- Shortness of breath or wheezing – especially if a tumor is growing in the main airway and is partially blocking the airflow
- Unintended weight loss
Lung cancer sometimes does not cause symptoms. Instead, it may be found during a chest X-ray performed for another condition, such as pneumonia.
What Causes Lung Cancer?
Most lung cancer is caused by smoking. However, sometimes lung cancer develops in people who have never smoked which can include factors such as:
- Family history: Risk increases with the presence of disease in the same family
- Long-standing exposure to cancer-causing gases and agents like radon, asbestos, etc
- Weak Immune system: For example, people with HIV, patients on long-term steroids, etc.
How is Lung Cancer diagnosed?
Lung cancer is diagnosed on the basis of:
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Tests as required:
- Blood and sputum test
- Lung biopsy
- Chest X-ray
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan
What are the treatment options for Lung Cancer?
Treatment for lung cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these therapies. Targeted therapy and immunotherapy may also be used.
Get to know about some good habits for healthy lungs
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