Lung cancer is another type of malignant growth, which starts in spongy tissues of the lungs. Every year it takes more lives than colon, breast, prostate and ovarian cancers combined. Meanwhile, simple measures for lung cancer prevention can help to minimise the risk factors. Lung cancer diagnosis aims not only to detect a tumor, but to identify the lung cancer stages, as well. Cancer staging plays an important part in choosing the correct treatment options, which may include a surgery (lobectomy, pneumonectomy), chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Below you can find more detailed information about lung cancer symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention.
The lungs comprises of two large sponge-like organs in the chest that allow us to breathe. Air goes through our nose into our lungs where it spreads through the tubes called bronchi straight across our windpipe (trachea). The oxygen we breathe in will then pass into the blood and the rest of the body to enable the body to function properly.
WHAT IS LUNG CANCER?
Lung cancer means that there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lungs, normally from the cells that line bronchi. These abnormal cells do not function like normal lung cells. As they grow, they can become bigger and start interfering with normal lung functions. Lung cancer can spread from the area of the lungs it started from to other parts of the body such as the other lung, lymph nodes, bones, liver and even more distant zones.
SMOKERS – MOST PRONE TO LUNCH CANCER
Smokers have the greatest risk of developing lung cancer. The length of smoking period and number of cigarettes you’ve smoked will proportionately increase the risk. You can significantly reduce the chances of developing lung cancer if you quit smoking even if you have smoked for many years.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN TYPES OF LUNG CANCER?
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): The most common type of lung cancer
- Small cell lung cancer (SCLC): Comprises about ten to fifteen percent of all lung cancer
SCLC grows rapidly and spreads earlier to other organs whereas NSCLC grows at a slower rate and tends to be confined to the lung for a longer period of time.
LUNG CANCER STAGES
Stage 0 – cancer is localized and only in the first few layers of cells. Stage 1 – cancer is confined to the lungs and surrounded by normal tissue. Stage 2 – cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Stage 3 – cancer has spread to the chest wall, diaphragm, nearby organs, blood vessels, lymph nodes in the mediastinum or the other side of the chest or neck. Stage 4 – cancer has spread to more distant sites of the body.
LUNG CANCER PREVENTION
- Reduce or avoid tobacco smoking: This is the most effective method.
- Screening: When lung cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, patients have nearly 50 percent chance of survival.
The current method recommended for screening for lung cancer is via a Low-Dose CT Scan of the lungs. However note that when you do this scan, you are also injecting minor amounts of radiation into your body.
- Avoid passive smoking. If you live or work with a smoker, ask him or her to quit and be persistent or, at least, ask him or her to smoke outside. Avoid areas where people smoke, such as bars and restaurants, and seek out smoke-free options.
- Avoid toxic chemicals. Protect yourself as much as possible from inhaling toxic compounds at work. Follow precautions, don’t refuse wearing a respirator, if you are required to.
SYMPTOMS OF LUNG CANCER
The signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:
- Persistent coughing that doesn’t go away or gets worse
- Blood in sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from your respiratory tract)
- Increased respiratory failure
- Pain in the chest that may be worsened with deep breathing or coughing
- A change in voice or a persistent hoarse voice
- Recurring infections in the lungs
- Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
- A lump or swelling in the neck (may be due to cancer spreading to lymph nodes in neck)
- Pain in bones, headache or weakness in the arms or legs (may be due to cancer spreading to other parts of the body, such as the bones or the brain)
TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR LUNG CANCER
When it comes to the type of treatment you will receive for lung cancer, a few factors come into play:
- What type of lung cancer you have (NSCLC or SCLC)
- What is the size and position of the cancer
- How far advanced is the cancer (the stage)
- How is your overall health
Treatments available include:
The three types of surgery are:
- Lobectomy: The removal of one or more large parts of your lung (lobes). This surgery will be recommended if the cancer is only located in one section of one a lung.
- Pneumonectomy: Removal of the entire lung. This surgery will be recommended if the cancer is located in the middle of the lung or has spread to other parts of the lung.
- Wedge resection or Segmentectomy: Removal of a small piece of a lung. This surgery is only suitable for a small percent of lung cancer patients. This is recommended when your cancer is small and limited to one area of the lung. This is normally very early stage NSCLC.
Powerful cancer-killing medications are used to treat cancer. Chemotherapy can be used in several ways to treat lung cancer:
- To shrink a tumor before surgery that will increase the chance of a successful surgery (usually done as part of a clinical trial)
- To prevent cancer from returning after surgery
- Combined with radiotherapy
- When cure isn’t possible, it is used to relive symptoms and to slow the spread of cancer
They are usually given in cycles that involve receiving treatments for a few days and having a break for a few weeks to allow your body to recover. The number of cycles you will need depends on what type of and stage of lung cancer you have. Most patients require about four to six courses of treatment over three to six months. Chemotherapy for lung cancer involves taking a combination of different medications. The medications are normally administered through a drip intravenously or through a tube connected to one of the blood vessels in your chest. You may be given capsules or tablets to swallow instead.
Pulses of radiation are used to destroy cancer cells. Radiotherapy can be used in a number of ways to treat lung cancer.
- Radical radiotherapy:In attempt to cure NSCLC, an intensive course of radiotherapy can be performed if the patient isn’t healthy enough for surgery.
- Stereotactic radiotherapy:Used instead of surgery for very small tumors.
- Palliative radiotherapy:Used to treat the symptoms and slow down the spread of cancer when a cure isn’t possible.
- Prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI):Sometimes used during the treatment of small-cell lung cancer. It involves treating the whole brain with low dose of radiation. It is used as a preventive measure as there is a small risk that small cell lung cancer may spread to your brain.
LUNG CANCER DIAGNOSIS
- History taking and Physical examination: Your doctor will ask you about your general health and what symptoms you have. A device called a spirometer may also be sued to examine how much air you breathe in and out.
- Blood test: A blood test may be recommended to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms such as a chest infection.
- Chest X-ray: The first test used to diagnose lung cancer is normally a chest X-ray. Most lung tumors show up as a white-grey mass on X-rays.
- Sputum cytology: Examination of the sputum under the microscope may reveal cancer cells.
- CT scan: This scan is normally carried out after a chest X-ray. It uses X-rays and a computer to produce detailed images of the inside of your body. Before a CT scan, you will be injected with a contrast medium. This is a fluid that contains dye and makes the images of the lungs clearer on the scan. This is a painless scan and takes ten to thirty minutes to complete.
- PET-CT scan: This scan may be required if the CT scan shows that you have early stage cancer. It can show where the active cancer cells are located and can help with diagnosis and treatment.Prior to the scan, you will be injected with a slightly radioactive material. You will be required to lie down on a table that will slide into the PET scanner. This is painless scan and takes about thirty to sixty minutes.