Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States. It is responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than the other three most common cancer types combined, including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer. This article will explain the types, symptoms, diagnosis, and effective treatment options for lung cancer.
What is Lung Cancer?
This disease occurs as a result of the abnormal growth of cells in the lungs. This cancer type can develop anywhere in the lungs. It can affect any part of the respiratory system. Cancer that begins in the lungs is commonly known as primary lung cancer. If it first appears in other body parts and spreads to the lungs, it is called secondary or metastatic cancer in the lung. Smoking is a primary risk factor. But, not everyone who develops lung cancer has a history of smoking.
What Are the Two Types of Lung Cancer?
The two most common types include:
Around 13% of the cases in the U.S. are small cells. This type tends to grow more rapidly than NSCLC.
Around 84% of cases in the U.S. are non-small cells.
What Are the Common Causes of Lung Cancer?
Cigarette smoking is one of the primary causes of this disease. Approximately 80-90% of lung cancers occur due to tobacco use. Pipe and cigar smoking also contribute to the development of this condition. Other factors that increase the risk of having this disease include:
- Exposure to asbestos, radon, and occupational substances (arsenic, cadmium, nickel, diesel fumes)
- History of lung diseases like lung fibrosis or emphysema
- HIV infection
- Family history
What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Lung Cancer?
In most cases, this cancer type does not cause any noticeable signs and symptoms. Usually, it is diagnosed during the tests performed for another condition. But some people may experience symptoms. They might include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- A cough that gets worse over time
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Blood in sputum
- Losing weight without trying
- Swelling in the face
- Bone pain
- Trouble swallowing
How Is Lung Cancer Usually Diagnosed?
This cancer type is diagnosed by looking at a sample of lung cells in the laboratory. Biopsy samples help to determine the type of this disease. If you are experiencing any of the possible symptoms, see your doctor immediately. The healthcare provider will suggest some imaging tests to determine the stage of cancer. Other diagnostic tests and procedures used to diagnose the disease include:
- Blood tests
- Imaging studies (chest x-rays and bone scans)
How Long Does it Take to Be Diagnosed With Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer in its early stages does not cause noticeable physical changes. Furthermore, patients with this cancer type can survive many years without showing any symptoms. It might go unnoticed for a long time before turning into a severe form of the disease.
Can Lung Cancer Be Cured?
After analyzing several factors, the doctor will suggest the most suitable treatment. These factors include:
- Cancer type
- Overall health
- Individual preferences
Every treatment has some associated pros and cons. The patients should talk to the healthcare provider in detail about the best choice for them. Some of the most common treatments include:
Surgery is the most efficient treatment for curing this disease. But it is limited to the tumors that have not progressed beyond the lungs.
Radiation therapy uses powerful and high-energy X-rays to kill cancerous cells. The purpose is to stop the cancer cells from growing without damaging the normal cells.
Chemotherapy is the first choice for treating SCLC. This treatment is given alone or in combination with surgery or radiation therapy.
Immunotherapy drugs stimulate the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. This treatment boosts, directs or restores the body’s natural anti-cancer defenses.
What Is the Lung Cancer Survival Rate?
The survival rate of this disease is lower than many other cancer types. Several studies suggest that the five-year survival rate for this disease is 56 percent.
Lung Cancer Awareness
Early lung cancer diagnosis helps to improve the outcomes. Raising lung cancer awareness can help patients identify the symptoms early before it turns to the aggressive form of the disease.