What exactly is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is a cancer that starts in the lungs. Your lungs are two spongy organs in your chest that take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide when you breathe.
Lung cancer is a disease that develops as a result of uncontrolled cell division in the lungs. Your cells divide and make more copies of themselves as a part of their normal function. However, they can experience changes (mutations) that cause them to continue making more of themselves when they shouldn’t. Damaged cells that divide uncontrollably form masses of tissue, or tumors, that eventually prevent your organs from functioning properly.
How does Lung Cancer occur?
Uncontrolled cell division causes lung cancer. All cells have a built-in off switch that prevents them from dividing (senescence) or kills them (apoptosis) when needed. Too many cell divisions or changes turn off the switch (mutations). Mutations in normal cells remove the off switch and cause cancer. Unchecked cell growth disrupts normal cells. Cancer cells can spread through your bloodstream or lymph nodes. Smoking tobacco products can damage cells and cause lung cancer, but we don’t know why some people get cancer and others don’t.
What are the signs of Lung Cancer?
In the early stages of lung cancer, there are usually no signs or symptoms. Lung cancer signs and symptoms typically appear when the disease is advanced.
Lung cancer signs and symptoms may include:
- A new cough that refuses to go away
- Blood in the cough, even if it is only a small amount
- Chest ache
- Dry cough
- Losing weight without trying
- Bone ache
What tests are used to determine if someone has Lung Cancer?
If your doctor suspects you have lung cancer, he will likely order a variety of tests to look for cancerous cells and rule out other conditions.
The following tests may be performed:
- Imaging examinations. An X-ray of your lungs may reveal a suspicious mass or nodule. A CT scan can detect small lesions in your lungs that an X-ray may miss.
- Cytology of sputum. If you have a cough and produce sputum, examining the sputum under a microscope may reveal the presence of lung cancer cells.
- Tissue sample (biopsy). A biopsy is a procedure that removes a sample of abnormal cells. A biopsy can be performed in a variety of ways, including bronchoscopy, which involves your doctor inspecting abnormal areas of your lungs with a lighted tube that is passed down your throat and into your lungs.
Another option is mediastinoscopy, which involves making an incision at the base of your neck and inserting surgical tools behind your breastbone to collect tissue samples from lymph nodes.
How is Lung Cancer treated medically?
A cancer treatment plan is chosen by you and your doctor based on a number of factors, including your overall health, the type and stage of your cancer, and your preferences.
You may choose not to receive treatment in some cases. For example, you may believe that the treatment’s side effects will outweigh the potential benefits. In that case, your doctor may recommend comfort care to treat only the symptoms of the cancer, such as pain or shortness of breath.
During surgery, your surgeon removes lung cancer as well as a margin of healthy tissue. Lung cancer removal procedures include:
- Wedge resection involves removing a small section of lung containing the tumor as well as a margin of healthy tissue.
- Segmental resection is used to remove a larger portion of the lung rather than an entire lobe.
- Lobectomy is the surgical removal of an entire lung lobe.
- An entire lung is removed during a pneumonectomy.
Chemotherapy kills cancer cells. Intravenous or oral chemotherapy may be administered. A combination of drugs is usually given over weeks or months with breaks to recover. Post-surgery chemotherapy kills any cancer cells. It works alone or with radiation. Chemotherapy can reduce cancers before surgery.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by delivering high-energy beams from sources such as X-rays and protons. You lie on a table during radiation therapy while a machine moves around you, directing radiation to specific points on your body.
Targeted Drug Therapy:
Lung cancer cells in some people with NSCLC have specific changes (mutations) that help the cancer grow. Special drugs target these mutations in an attempt to slow or kill cancer cells. Other drugs, known as angiogenesis inhibitors, can prevent the tumor from forming new blood vessels, which cancer cells require to grow.
Our bodies typically recognize damaged or harmful cells and destroy them. Cancer can hide from the immune system in order to avoid being destroyed. Immunotherapy exposes cancer cells to your immune system, allowing your body to fight cancer on its own.
People with lung cancer frequently experience cancer symptoms as well as treatment side effects. Supportive care, also known as palliative care, is a medical specialty that entails working with a doctor to reduce your signs and symptoms. Your doctor may advise you to meet with a palliative care team soon after your cancer diagnosis to ensure your comfort during and after treatment.
How can one be prevented from Lung Cancer?
Because we don’t know what causes most cancers, the only preventative measures are aimed at lowering your risk. Some methods for lowering your risk include:
- Quit smoking. Stop smoking right now. Even if you’ve been smoking for years, quitting lowers your risk of lung cancer. Consult your doctor about smoking cessation strategies and medications. Nicotine replacement products, medications, and support groups are all options.
- Avoid inhaling secondhand smoke. If you live or work with someone who smokes, encourage him or her to quit. At the very least, request that he or she smoke outside. Avoid smoking areas, such as bars and restaurants, and look for smoke-free options
- Workplace carcinogens should be avoided. Take precautions to avoid being exposed to toxic chemicals at work. Take the precautions recommended by your employer. For example, if you are given a face mask for protection, you should always wear it. Inquire with your doctor about what else you can do to protect yourself at work. If you smoke, your risk of lung damage from workplace carcinogens increases.
- Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables. Choose a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The best sources of vitamins and nutrients are foods. Large doses of vitamins in pill form should be avoided as they may be harmful. For example, in order to reduce the risk of lung cancer in heavy smokers, researchers gave them beta carotene supplements. The supplements actually increased the risk of cancer in smokers, according to the findings.
- Most days of the week, exercise. Start slowly if you don’t exercise regularly.