The Most Common Cancers: #3 Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is characterized by the presence of cancerous cells that form in the linings of air passages inside the lungs. In 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute, there will be 228,190 new cases diagnosed. This makes lung cancer the third most common cancer, and the leading cause of cancer deaths.
In the early stages, lung cancer might not have any symptoms. They typically don’t appear until the tumor has grown large enough to block air passages or spread to other parts of the body. When that happens, be aware of the following symptoms:
- A chronic cough that is raspy and hacking
- Blood-streaked mucus brought up by the cough
- Recurring respiratory infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- A horse voice
- Neck and face swelling
- Pain or weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand
- Fatigue or weakness
- Loss of weight
- Loss of appetite
- Intermittent fever
- Severe headaches
- Body pain
- Difficulty swallowing
Unlike other cancers, there are direct connections between lung cancer and smoking. In fact, about 90 percent of all cases are attributed to tobacco use.
The impact that cigarette smoking has on lung cancer can be illustrated by the fact that the risk for the disease increases with the number of cigarettes a patient smokes over time. This is referred to as pack-years, or the number of packs smoked in a year.
People who don’t smoke, but are around others that do so, are also at risk. Those exposed to second-hand smoke, or passive smoking, increase their risk for the disease by as much as 24 percent. Second-hand smoke alone accounts for an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
Another risk factor is the exposure to asbestos fibers. At one time, it was widely used as both an insulation material. Today, its use is limited or banned. But the silicate fibers can remain in lung tissues over a person’s life, and can negatively impact a person’s health.
Consider this: non-smoking workers who were regularly exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers. Those asbestos workers who did smoke are 50 to 90 times more likely than non-smokers to have the disease
If a patient is diagnosed with lung cancer, they will have one of two types of the disease. The types of lung cancer are named for how they appear when magnified.
Small-cell lung cancer is characterized by tiny cells that are oval shaped. It occurs in about one out of every eight cases. This form is aggressive and can spread to other parts of the body quickly.
The more common form of lung cancer is non-small cell. In this group, there are three types: carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma. Non-small cell lung cancer is seen in seven out of every eight lung cancer patients. Fortunately, although it is more common, it does not grow or spread as quickly as small-cell lung cancer.
Treatment for lung cancer depends on its type and stage. For cancer in early stages, surgery may be an option. A surgeon will typically perform a lobectomy, which is removing the lobe of the lung where cancer was found. The surgeon might also remove nearby lymph nodes. Depending on the circumstances, the surgeon might only remove the tumor and nearby tissue.
Surgery could be followed with radiation or chemotherapy, or both. Some patients with non-small cell lung cancer may also receive targeted therapy. This treatment may block the growth and spread of lung cancer cells.
After receiving treatment, patients will need to have regular checkups every six months. These visits not only determine if cancer has returned, but also detect other health problems that the cancer treatment might have caused. Need to add somewhere in the article that diagnosed patients need to stop smoking. Lung cancer patients who stop smoking and avoid smoke in their housed do better