Lung Cancer – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Stages, Treatment and Prevention: When the DNA of the cells of the airway gets damaged, it starts to form tumors in the lung, as these cells being to proliferate unchecked. It often happens to persons who smoke too much, but can also happen due to radon, inhaling chemicals. If not treated properly and early, it spreads to the whole lung and even to other organs as well. It is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
Lung cancer can be divided into two main types: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). At an early stage, it may produce mild to no symptoms, but other general symptoms may include coughing, chest pain, blood in sputum, heavy breathing, etc. This article will discuss the causes, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures for lung cancer.
Recognizing the symptoms of lung cancer is important for early diagnosis and treatment. If you experience any of these below symptoms, it is important to speak to your doctor to determine the cause and receive appropriate treatment. Its general symptoms are –
- Persistent cough: A persistent cough that lasts for more than two weeks is a common symptom of lung cancer. It may produce phlegm or blood. The cough may worsen over time and become more frequent.
- Chest pain: Chest pain is another common symptom of lung cancer. It may be either mild uneasiness or sharp pain. The pain may be constant or intermittent and may worsen with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing.
- Shortness of breath: it is a usual symptom of lung cancer. This may be due to some physical activity or may occur at rest even. The shortness of breath may be caused by a blockage in the airways, fluid accumulation in the lungs, or the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
- Wheezing: Wheezing is an elevated-pitched shrilling noise that occurs when breathing. This happens due to tapered air passages. Wheezing is a common symptom of lung cancer and may be accompanied by shortness of breath.
- Fatigue: Fatigue is a common symptom of lung cancer. It may be caused by the cancer itself or by the treatments used to treat cancer. it may also hinder the day-to-day activities and normal functioning capacity of the patient.
- Unexplained weight loss: Unexplained weight loss is a common symptom of lung cancer. It may occur as a result of cancer using up energy from the body, or as a result of loss of appetite.
- Hoarseness: Hoarseness is a common symptom of lung cancer. It may occur as a result of cancer affecting the nerves that control the voice box.
- Bone pain: Bone pain is a common symptom of lung cancer that has spread to the bones. It may occur as a dull ache or a sharp pain and may be worse at night.
- Headaches: Headaches are a common symptom of lung cancer that has spread to the brain. The headaches may be severe and may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as seizures or weakness.
- Blood clots: it is very usual in lung cancer and may occur in the legs or lungs. This also causes swelling, pain, or shortness of breath.
For Reference:- https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/symptoms.htm
There are numerous factors responsible for lung cancer. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, but other factors such as secondhand smoke, radon, air pollution, occupational exposure, genetics, and age can also increase the risk of developing the disease. By understanding the cause one can easily be given appropriate and personalized treatment within time. Here we will discuss some of the most common causes, which include –
- Smoking: the foremost cause of lung cancer is smoking only. It is estimated that smoking is responsible for about 85% of all cases of lung cancer. The chemicals in cigarette smoke, such as tar and nicotine, damage the cells in the lungs, causing them to grow abnormally and form tumors.
- Secondhand smoke: Secondhand smoke is the smoke that is breathed in by non-smokers who are around smokers. Secondhand smoke contains many of the same chemicals as cigarette smoke and can also cause lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer in non-smokers each year in the United States.
- Radon: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can seep into homes and buildings. After smoking, is the most harmful factor and has caused approximately 21,100 deaths due to lung cancer per year in the U.S.
- Air pollution: Air pollution, such as smog and other airborne toxins, can also cause lung cancer. Exposure to air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer, particularly in people who live in urban areas.
- Occupational exposure: Certain jobs expose workers to substances that can cause lung cancer. These include workers in the mining, construction, and manufacturing industries who may be exposed to asbestos, silica, and other carcinogens.
- Genetics: In some cases, lung cancer may be caused by genetic factors. People who had incidences of lung cancer in the family are more prone to inherit cancer genes, which further lead to lung cancer.
- Age: when the lungs tend to become weak in old age, the DNA of cells became damaged and starts growing uncontrollably. This results in carcinoid tumor formation. Generally, patients identified with lung cancer are over 65 years of age.
For Reference:- https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/
Diagnosis of lung cancer typically involves several tests and procedures to confirm the presence of cancer, determine the stage of cancer, and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Some diagnostic measures are –
- Imaging Tests – Imaging tests, such as chest X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans, are commonly used to diagnose lung cancer. These tests can help identify the location and size of the tumor and determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- Sputum Cytology – Sputum cytology involves examining a sample of mucus coughed up from the lungs under a microscope to check for cancer cells. This test may be used if a patient has a persistent cough or other symptoms of lung cancer.
- Biopsy – A biopsy involves taking a small sample of tissue from the lung and examining it under a microscope to check for cancer cells. There are other forms of biopsies are also available depending on the type and requirement of diagnosis and site of cancer.
- Needle Biopsy – A needle is inserted through the chest wall or into the lung to remove a small sample of tissue for testing.
- Bronchoscopy – A thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end is inserted through the nose or mouth into the lungs to collect a tissue sample.
- Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS) – A bronchoscope with an ultrasound probe is inserted through the mouth to take a tissue sample from nearby lymph nodes.
- Mediastinoscopy – A small incision is made in the neck to collect a tissue sample from the area between the lungs.
- Molecular Testing – Molecular testing involves analyzing the cancer cells for specific genetic mutations or other biomarkers that can help guide treatment decisions. This testing is often done on tissue samples taken during a biopsy.
- Blood Tests – Blood tests are not typically used to diagnose lung cancer, but they may be used to monitor treatment or check for other health conditions that can affect the lungs, such as infections or inflammation.
For Reference:- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lung-cancer/diagnosis/
There are four main stages of lung cancer, which are determined by the size and location of the tumor, as well as whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. If cancer is detected early, at a primitive stage, it can be treated more accurately. Understanding the stages of lung cancer is important for determining the best course of treatment and for predicting the patient’s prognosis.
- Stage 1 – Stage 1 lung cancer is the earliest stage of the disease, and it is also the most treatable. At this stage, the tumor is small and localized to the lung and has not spread to any other parts of the body. The five-year survival rate for stage 1 lung cancer is around 56%, which means that more than half of people with stage 1 lung cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis.
- Stage 2 – In stage 2 lung cancer, the tumor has grown larger and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes, but not to other body parts. The five-year survival rate for stage 2 lung cancers is around 36%, which means that around one-third of people with stage 2 lung cancers survive for at least five years after diagnosis.
- Stage 3 – In stage 3 lung cancer, the tumor is now larger than before and has spread to lymph nodes even. Cancer may also have spread to other parts of the body, such as the chest wall, diaphragm, or nearby organs. Stage 3 lung cancer is divided into two subcategories: stage 3A and stage 3B. In the 3A stage, the tumor has reached lymph nodes on either side of the chest as a primitive tumor. In stage 3B, cancer has spread to lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest, as well as other parts of the body. The five-year survival rate for stage 3 lung cancer is around 26%, which means that less than one-third of people with stage 3 lung cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis.
- Stage 4 – In stage 4 lung cancer, the tumor has now spread to various organs including bones, liver, brain, etc. Stage 4 lung cancer is the most advanced stage of the disease, and it is also the most difficult to treat. The five-year survival rate for stage 4 lung cancer is around 5%, which means that only around 5% of people with stage 4 lung cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis.
For Reference:- https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/
Some factors such as the type and stage of cancer, the patient’s overall health, and other medical conditions are very crucial in determining the type of treatment and therapies for cancer eradication from the patient’s body. Some treatments can be given alone or in conjunction with others to enhance the result. Some of them may include –
Surgery – Surgery is often the first treatment option for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous tissue from the lungs. There are several types of lung cancer surgeries, including:
- Lobectomy: if in lung cancer, the entire lobe of the lung is infected, then that infected lobe is removed by a surgical means.
- Pneumonectomy: if the manifestation of cancer is very serious and the tumour has spread to the entire lung, then to save the patient’s life and further rooting to cancer, the entire lung is removed. This process is known as Pneumonectomy.
- Wedge Resection: Removal of a small, wedge-shaped piece of the lung.
Radiation Therapy – This therapy uses X-rays and some other high-energy rays to eliminate cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used as a primary treatment for lung cancer, or it may be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. It can also be given sometimes to just relieve the symptoms such as pain and blockage causing heaving breathing, etc., instead of treating cancer tumors.
Chemotherapy – is employs the use of drugs known as chemo drugs to kill the tumor cells. Chemotherapy may be used as a primary treatment for lung cancer, or it may be used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy may also be used to relieve symptoms of advanced lung cancer.
Targeted Therapy – Targeted therapy is a newer type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to target specific proteins or genes in cancer cells. Targeted therapy may be used in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer who have specific genetic mutations.
Immunotherapy – this therapy enhances the immune system of the patient either through a self-system or via artificially synthesizes materials used as an immune component. These are injected into the patient’s body to kill tumor cells. Immunotherapy drugs work to identify the surface component of tumor cells and binding to them, marking them more prominently identified by the immune system. Immunotherapy may be used in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
Palliative Care – Palliative care is a type of care that focuses on improving the quality of life for patients with advanced lung cancer. Palliative care may include pain management, symptom management, and emotional support.
Lung cancer can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices and avoiding exposure to certain risk factors. Quitting smoking, avoiding secondhand smoke, protecting yourself from air pollution, testing your home for radon, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting regular health screenings are all effective ways to prevent lung cancer. By taking these preventive measures, you can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer and improve your overall health.
- Quit Smoking -The best way to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking or never start smoking. If you are a smoker, quitting smoking can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.
- Avoid Secondhand Smoke – Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. If you live with a smoker or spend time in places where smoking is allowed, you are at risk of secondhand smoke exposure. Avoiding secondhand smoke can help reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.
- Protect Yourself from Air Pollution – Exposure to air pollution, both outdoor and indoor, can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Protecting yourself from air pollution by using air purifiers, avoiding heavily trafficked areas during peak hours, and wearing masks can help reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.
- Test Your Home for Radon – Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Testing your home for radon and taking measures to reduce radon levels can help prevent lung cancer.
- Maintain a Healthy Diet – Eating a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. Avoiding processed and high-fat foods can also help lower your risk of lung cancer.
- Exercise Regularly – Regular exercise can help reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. Exercise can also improve lung function and help reduce the risk of other chronic diseases.
- Get Regular Health Screenings – Getting regular health screenings can help detect lung cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable. Speak with your healthcare provider about the appropriate screening tests for you.
Coughing helps clear the throat and expels foreign particles forcefully that block the air passage. Generally, prolonged coughing resolves on its own, but if it lasts for more than two months, and has other symptoms such as bloody sputum, chest pain, etc. one should immediately seek a doctor’s help as these symptoms may indicate the presence of cancer.
As lung cancer is hard to detect in its early stage, it is diagnosed when a lot of damage has been done and is usually identified at its advanced stages. The side effects of late diagnosis may include the removal of part of an organ or an entire organ to remove a tumor, and loss of function. In the majority of cases, it has already spread to other organs, therefore survival rate also decreases even after treatment.
Lung cancer decreases the capacity of your lungs to perform their function, therefore shortness of breath and heavy breathing are some general symptoms. You might not be able to perform any heavy or even regular physical activities, however, might try walking or swimming for 5-10 min for several times a day. You must keep someone to supervise while performing any such activity. You might also try some good posture yoga to enhance the capacity of your lung.