According to LungCancer.org, lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. These abnormal cells do not carry out the functions of normal lung cells and do not develop into healthy lung tissue. As they grow, the abnormal cells can form tumors and interfere with the functioning of the lung, which provides oxygen to the body via the blood. (1) No one wants to deal with the idea that they might be suffering from a form of cancer. However, if you know someone in your family that’s had a diagnosis, or your doctor has told you that you could be at risk of developing a tumor, then you’ll want to learn as much as you can about lung cancer signs, symptoms and treatments.
Lung cancer is a form of cancer that begins in the lungs, but it can progress to other parts of the body, just like other types of cancer. The most common version of lung cancer is known as “non-small cell” cancer, which accounts for about 85% of all recorded cases today. Many lung cancer issues begin in the cells that form the lining of the body’s surfaces, such as the outside of the lung. About 30% of lung cancer cases begin within the passages of the respiratory tract.
Some rare forms of lung cancer can begin in the air sacs throughout the lungs known as the alveoli. This condition is called adenocarcinoma in situ, and in some cases, the condition won’t require any immediate treatment.
Small cell lung cancer is a much less common type of cancer, that represents about 20% of all cases. It spreads much faster than non-small cell cancer, and this also means that it’s generally more likely to respond well to chemotherapy. Meanwhile, small cell cancers are also less likely to be cured by treatment.
In some circumstances, lung cancer might be linked to both small-cell, and non-small cell tissues.
The Causes of Lung Cancer:
Before you start exploring lung cancer signs, symptoms and treatments, you might want to find out more about the issues that can increase your chances of suffering from lung cancer. For instance, while anyone can be exposed to the damaged cells that cause lung cancer, around 90% of cases can be traced back to smoking. According to Lung.org, lung cancer occurs when cells in the lung mutate or change. Various factors can cause this mutation to happen. Most often, this change in lung cells happens when people breathe in dangerous, toxic substances. Even if you were exposed to these substances many years ago, you are still at risk for lung cancer. Talk to your doctor if you have been exposed to any of the substances listed below and take steps to reduce your risk and protect your lungs. (2)
From the moment you start inhaling smoke into your lungs, the tissue in those organs begins to suffer. While your lungs can repair the damage done to them, continuous exposure to the same toxins can make it very difficult for your body to keep repairing itself. Once your cells are damaged, they can sometimes begin to act abnormally, increasing your risk of developing cancer. Almost all cases of small cell lung cancer are associated with smoking, and when you stop the habit, you can reduce your risk of cancer over time.
Of course, smoking isn’t the only potential cause of lung cancer. Exposure to a naturally-occurring gas called radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon generally enters buildings through small cracks in the structure’s foundation. Smokers who are exposed to radon alongside their habit have a particularly high risk of lung cancer.
Indeed, breathing in any hazardous substances over long periods of time can improve your chances of having lung cancer. One type of lung problem known as mesothelioma is generally caused by frequent exposure to asbestos. Other types of toxins that can typically increase your risk of lung cancer include:
The Symptoms of Lung Cancer:
When it comes to understanding lung cancer signs, symptoms and treatments, it’s important to remember that it’s not always easy to detect lung cancer during the early stages. The symptoms of both small cell and non-small cell cancers are generally quite similar, and they often include an ongoing and worsening cough which may present with blood and phlegm.
You also may begin to notice chest pains that get worse when you laugh, cough or breathe in deeply along with hoarseness, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, and wheezing. Some people with lung cancer suffer from weight loss and a distinct lack of appetite, whereas others find that they’re more likely to have recurring respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
As the cancer in your system continues to spread, then you might begin to suffer from additional symptoms, depending on where the tumors appear. For instance, if you have cancer in your lymph nodes, then you might notice pain and lumps in your collarbone and neck. If the cancer builds in your bones, then you might suffer from pain in the ribs, hips, and spine.
Tumors that grow towards the top of the lungs can have an impact on the performance of facial nerves, leading to drooping eyelids, lack of perspiration on one side of the face, or small pupils. Tumors can also press on the veins that are responsible for transporting blood and oxygen around the body, causing swelling in your upper chest, neck, face, and arms. In rare circumstances, the cancer might also create substances that lead to various hormonal symptoms, like:
– high blood sugar
– fluid retention
– nausea and vomiting
Treatment for Lung Cancer:
Perhaps the most important thing you’ll want to know about lung cancer signs, symptoms and treatment is what can be done to help your condition. Before you begin treatment, it’s generally a good idea to seek a second opinion. If you’re diagnosed with lung cancer, then your care will be managed by a wide group of experts who might include oncologists, lung specialists, and surgeons.
Each of these experts will work with you to discuss the various treatment options available before you need to make a final decision. Your doctors will coordinate your care options with you, but it’s important to remember that treatments for lung cancer can vary from one person to another. Much of your experience will depend on the specific details around your health.
Depending on the stage of your cancer your treatment will vary. For instance, if you have stage one lung cancer, then you may be given surgery to remove a portion of your lung, followed by chemotherapy. On the other hand, stage 2 lung cancer may require the removal of a larger portion of the lung, along with additional treatment.
Stage 4 lung cancer is particularly difficult to cure. Although you’ll have options like immunotherapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, your expected outcome might not be as good at this point. Some people with advanced lung cancer choose not to continue their treatment.
According to the WebMD, researchers are constantly looking for better ways to treat lung cancer and help people feel better and live longer. Scientists are studying new combinations of chemotherapy, new forms of radiation, and drugs that make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation. (3)