Lung Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Treatment

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Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the lungs. It is one of the most common cancers worldwide and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer can be divided further into two including adenocarcinoma which arises in the alveoli while Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the bronchial tubes. Additionally, a large cell carcinoma finds itself occurring in any part of the lung. Small cell lung cancer is aggressive and spreads to all parts of the lung. So let’s look at the general causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment methods of this vicious disease.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

 Lung cancer symptoms can vary depending on the type of cancer, and the stage at which it is diagnosed. Here are some of the common symptoms of Lung Cancer. though they may vary or could be the result of something else entirely-

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Persistent cough

As its name suggests, lung cancer patients are often attacked by bouts of cough that don’t go away. The cough could be either dry or produce phlegm. Moreover, the cough tends to change over time.

Shortness of breath

The coughs are accompanied by shortness of breath where the individual cannot catch their breath even during simpler tasks. 

Chest pain

There could be a sharp or aching pain in the chest area that could stay for some time. It may or may not subside after a while. The pain is unbearable at times and could be differentiated from the one experienced when acid reflux shows up. People have also reported the pain to be shifting its base to the back as well.

Wheezing

It is a symptom experienced by people with lung conditions in general. It refers to a whistling sound made during regular breathing which is otherwise silent. Wheezing is severe and you can listen to it with your bare ears and can occur during inhalation or exhalation.

Unexplained weight loss

Lung cancer patients are known to lose weight rapidly in copious amounts. It would be different from regular weight loss as this one would be significant and unintentional. It can be seen in a short period and will not require limiting the food or physical exercises.

Causes of Lung cancer

Lung cancer is a complex disease with multiple risk factors, and it often results from a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Here are the primary causes of lung cancer-

  1. Smoking– Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Tobacco is known to contain a variety of carcinogens and the risk of developing one is directly proportional to the duration and intensity of the smoking. Smokers are often put in a high-risk category when compared to non-smokers. Passive or second-hand smokers could also develop the risk and can be affected by lung cancer.
  2. Radon gas exposure– It is a naturally occurring gas often present in buildings and especially in basements. Prolonged exposure to this gas could cause cancer as it is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
  3. Occupational exposures– Some people get exposed to harmful gases in their line of work like chromium, asbestos, arsenic, and nickel. Workers in the mining, manufacturing, and construction business are known to develop lung cancer by coming into contact with the elements regularly.
  4. Air pollution– Prolonged exposure to gases released by motor vehicles and factories in urban areas can also cause the lungs to break down. However, the risk is low compared to the other two unless the exposure is significant.
  5. Genetic factors– Researchers have also been able to establish a direct relation between one’s gene and their chance of having lung cancer. This is why individuals could develop it without being exposed to the other causes. A family history of lung cancer is to be taken seriously.

Prevention and Treatment

 Lung cancer can be prevented by reducing your exposure to the causal effects mentioned above. This could mean no smoking-passive or active, no smelling of radon gas and always wearing protective masks while dealing with them in a professional setting. Additionally, you could also test yourself for the genetic markers in cancer and do the needful to minimize the risk as much as possible. However its treatment is an elaborate process including-

Causes of Lung cancer

  • Surgery– If the tumor is operable, it along with the surrounding tissue is removed. It is often suggested for early-stage nonsmall cell cancers which are found in a particular part of the lungs and not all over it, unlike its counterpart.
  • ChemotherapyChemotherapy is the blasting of one’s immune system with IV transfers or in some cases oral. This method of treatment gains precedence if the form is particularly vigorous and is in its lateral stages.
  • Radiation therapy– Similar to chemical therapy, radiation is used to kill all the cancer cells in a controlled setting. It is a combination drug which means it is used along with one other way of treatment to multiply its effectiveness.
  • Targeted therapy– Targeted therapies are drugs capable of attacking the particular spot molecules or pathways involved in the growth of cancer. They come in handy when tackling NSCLC which exhibit mutations or abnormalities.
  • Immunotherapy– True to its name, immunotherapy aims to work in tandem with the immune system in attacking the cancer cells. It is an ongoing area of study and is used only when the cancer exhibits Progrmmed death-Ligand 1 marker.

Conclusion

Apart from these, people also consider participating in clinical trials that are promising and could have positive effects. However, the specific plans should be discussed at length with your doctor and should only be conducted if the parties agree. Though early detection is the crucial element in deciding the recovery chances, many cancers also may disappear completely with targeted care and a combination of therapies. In any case, you shouldn’t expect a fast result as it could take a while for your body to adjust to the changes and the medications. Support for your loved ones can be reassuring at times like these.

References

  • Herbst RS, Heymach JV, Lippman SM. Lung cancer. N Engl J Med. 2008;359(13):1367–1380.[PubMed
  • Parkin DM, Pisani P, Lopez AD, et al. At least one in seven cases of cancer is caused by smoking. Global estimates for 1985. Int J Cancer. 1994;59(4):494–504.  [Google Scholar]

Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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