What is Lung Cancer and its types?
Cancer that starts in the lungs is called lung cancer. Amongst all lung cancers, the most common is NSCLC (Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer). Generally, 80-85 % of cases of lung cancer are NSCLC. The 30% of these cases start in the cells which are responsible for forming the lining of the body’s cavities and surfaces. This type usually forms in the Adenocarcinomas (Outer part of the lungs). Another 30% begins in those cells which line the squamous cell carcinoma (Passages of the respiratory tract).
There is a subpart of Adenocarcinoma starts in the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs). This is called adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS). However, it doesn’t require immediate treatment and it is not very aggressive. Large cell carcinoma and large-cell neuroendocrine tumors are amongst the fastest growing types of NSCLC.
SCLC (Small-cell lung cancer) contributes to nearly 15-20 % of lung cancers. However, it grows and spread faster than the former one. There is another type of lung cancer, Mesothelioma, linked with the exposure of asbestos.
These tumors can grow in the lungs without showing any detectable symptoms. The early symptoms can go unnoticed such as cold. This is the primary reason isn’t usually diagnosed at an early stage.
Lung Cancer Stages:
These stages help in treatment guide by revealing the spread level of cancer. If lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, before it spreads, then there are high chances of successful treatment.
However, the early symptoms of lung cancer are common and unnoticeable therefore, it is noticed when it has been already spread.
There are four main stages in NSCLC:
- Stage 1: The cancer is in the lung, but it has not yet spread
- Stage 2: The cancer is in the lung and near lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: In the lung plus lymph node in the middle of the chest.
- Stage 3A: In lymph nodes, but on the same side of the chest where it firsts starts growing.
- Stage 3B: Spread to lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest.
- Stage 4: Both lungs and other distant organs.
There are two stages in SCLC: Limited and Extensive.
In the limited stage, cancer is only in one lung or in lymph nodes on the same side of the chest.
In the extensive stage, cancer spreads to a single lung, or opposite lung, lymph on the opposite side and nearby lungs. It may be spread to bone marrow and other organs.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer:
Basically, the symptoms of NSCLC and SCLC are almost similar.
The initial symptoms are:
- Worsen cough
- Phlegm or blood cough
- Chest pain
- Breathe shortness
- Fatigue and weakness
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
The patient may experience respiratory infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
There are symptoms that occur as cancer spreads in the body. Such as:
- In lymph nodes: Cause lumps in the neck or collarbone
- Bones: bone pain in the back, ribs, and hips.
- In brain or spine: Dizziness, headache, numbness in arms or legs.
- In liver: Jaundice
There could be symptoms in the facial expression of a person, such as drooping of one eyelid, small pupil, or lack of perspiration on the single side of the face. This happens when the tumors are at the top of the lungs and affect facial nerves.
Causes of Lung Cancer:
90% of the cases of lung cancer are due to smoking.
What happens during smoking?
When a person inhales smoke in the lungs, it begins damaging the lung tissues. The lung needs to repair the damage, but however, the continued exposure to the smoke makes difficult for the lungs to keep up the repairing process. Once the cells get damaged, they begin to behave abnormally, which increases the chances of developing lung cancer. SCLC is always linked with heavy smoking.
If the person quits smoking, he reduces the chances of getting lung cancer over time.
According to a research study, exposure to radon, a naturally existing radioactive gas, is the second major cause.
Radon enters the buildings through small cracks in building foundation. A person who is a smoker as well as exposes to the radon is having very high chances of lung cancer.
The other factors for lung cancer are:
- Breathing in hazardous substances for a long period of time.
- Exposure to asbestos cause Mesothelioma (A type of lung cancer).
- Substances such as arsenic, cadmium, nickel, petroleum products, and uranium, also cause lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Diagnosis:
- Imaging tests: It includes tests such as X-ray, MRI, CT, and PET scans, to get the detailed and minute images inside the body.
- Sputum Cytology: If you are producing phlegm while coughing, then a microscopic examination can help in determining the presence of cancer cells.
- Bronchoscopy: During sedation, a light tube is passed through your throat into the lungs for closer examination.
- Mediastinoscopy: The doctor performs an incision at the base of the neck. Some lighted instruments and surgical tools are used to take samples from lymph nodes.
Treatment of Lung Cancer:
If your diagnostic test results are positive then you would be treated by a team of doctors including:
- A thoracic surgeon (Specialized in chest and lungs)
- Pulmonologist (Lung specialist)
- Medical Oncologist
- Radiation Oncologist
- Stage 1: In this, surgery is performed to remove a portion of the lung. Chemotherapy may be needed if there are chances of reoccurrence.
- Stage 2: Either a part of the lung or all may be removed. Chemotherapy is recommended.
- Stage 3: In this, the patient requires, a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatment.
- Stage 4 is very hard to cure. The options are chemotherapy, surgery, target therapy, and immunotherapy.
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