Cancer is one of the leading causes of death all over the world. And what’s more horrifying is the fact that tumour affecting the lungs has caused around 1.4 million deaths per year, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) estimate.
Lung cancer causes uncontrolled cellular growth in the lung tissues. These lumps and tumours interfere with the normal functioning of the lungs, stopping it from performing its primary duty of providing oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. It can be cancerous – the cancer cell can move to other parts through the bloodstream or benign – restricted to the organ or cell affected. Although there might be numerous factors responsible for increasing your risk of lung cancer, smoking is undoubtedly one of the main causes of lung cancer.
The symptoms of lung cancer usually show up in the advanced stage, often making the diagnosis and treatment ineffective. However, here are few common signs you might experience if suffering from lung cancer.
Here is detailed information on the 10 common symptoms of lung cancer you need to know.
- Persistent cough
- Coughing up blood
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty in breathing
- Facial and vocal changes
- Recurring infections
- Bone pain
- Neurological symptoms
- Swellings on the body
Causes and risk factors
The three common causes and risk factors of lung cancer are –
Tobacco smoking: It includes both active and passive smoking and is the foremost reason for the development of lung cancer. According to a research study, smoking ultra-long or long cigarettes can put you at greater risk of lung cancer.
Occupational exposure: Heavy exposure to metals like asbestos, radon, uranium or arsenic might increase your risk of suffering from lung cancer. This is common in people working in cement factory or construction field.
Genetic predisposition: Lung cancer can run in families as well. According to a recent study, people with the rare inherited T790M mutation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene. These people a high chance of getting lung cancer as compared to heavy smokers with or without the inherited mutation.
Lung scarring from any prior illness: There is an increased risk of suffering from lung cancer if you had any prior illness of the lungs or have suffered any injury of the same.
Environmental pollution: Due to environmental pollution, lung cancer is increasing rapidly among Indian women in the 45 to 55 age group. Fine particulate matter in the air that lodges itself in the lungs causes harm over time and, the damage starts early.
The two main types of this cancer are small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC).
Small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) – Based on the size and shape these cancerous cells appear under the microscope, this cancer is named accordingly. Around 10 – 15 % of lung cancer account for this type of cancer. The nerve cells or hormone-producing cells of the lung are the affected ones, which in turn spreads to different parts of the body. It is further differentiated into four stages based on the metastasis (movement of the malignant cells to distant body parts).
Non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) – This type of lung cancer occurs in about 85% lung cancer patients. It is further divided into various sub-types namely –
- Stage I: When the cancerous cells are restricted only to the lungs.
- Stage II: It is when the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes from the lungs.
- Stage III: If your cancer has migrated to the chest region (on the same side or opposite side of the chest), it means you are suffering from stage III lung cancer
- Stage IV: This is the advanced stage, where the cancerous cells have migrated to the other parts of the body like the liver.
- Adenocarcinoma – When mucus-producing cells present in the lung turn cancerous.
- Squamous cell carcinoma – It affects the inner lining of the bronchial tubes.
- Large cell carcinomas – This involves NSCLC, which doesn’t belong to the above two types.
The diagnosis of lung cancer can be carried out with --
Chest X-rays -- With the help of an X-ray, your doctor will be able to detect lung tumors and rule out other lung infections like pneumonia, emphysema and interstitial lung disease.
CT scans – In this, an X-ray machine sends a large beam of rays through the chest region (lungs). It combines several X-ray images that show the cross--sectional (one-dimensional) view of the lungs. Here are top 10 facts you should know.
Biopsy – Biopsy is a procedure where the cells or tissues of an organ or other parts of the body are taken as samples to examine under a microscope by a pathologist. It is usually done to confirm the diagnosis.
Breathalyser – Although it is in the nascent stage of development, scientists are now developing a breathalyser device that can detect lung cancer in early stages.
The common treatment measures that are used to treat lung cancer include –
Surgery: If the lung cancer is restricted to a specific area (non-malignant type) and can be removed through surgical intervention, then it is carried out. However, this is followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy in some cases and might require follow-up.
Chemotherapy: The use of anti-cancer drugs to treat cancer is known as chemotherapy. Depending upon the severity of the disease and the extent of progression, your doctor will decide the treatment. Here are few side-effects of chemotherapy you should be aware of.
Radiation therapy: In this, high-intensity radiation is used to kill the cancerous cells. Your oncologist decides the mode of radiation therapy -- from a machine or through injection, targeted to the specific organ.
Combination therapy: This therapy involves treatment by chemotherapy and radiation therapy and is usually recommended for advanced stage cancer. Here’s everything you should know about treatment of cancer.
However, the treatment of lung cancer is not restricted to these treatment options. Here are some of the latest advances in treatment of lung cancer –