What is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. The majority of lung cancers begin in the bronchial tubes that conduct air in and out of the lungs. While there are more than a dozen different kinds of lung cancer, the two main types are "non-small cell" and "small cell," which together account for over 90% of all lung cancers. Nearly 80% of lung cancers are classified as non-small cell lung cancer.
Symptoms may include cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, breathlessness, and continuous hoarseness of voice. One may also experience fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and repeated chest infections. Sometimes, patients are not aware of the cancer until the symptoms spread to other parts of the body such as the brain, liver, and bones.
Cigarette smoking is the most important contributor to lung cancer. The risk of inducing lung cancer is proportional to the amount of cigarettes smoked. Exposure to second-hand smoke is also a risk factor for lung cancer. Giving up smoking leads to a gradual reduction in the risk of developing lung cancer, with the risk reduction increasing each year that passes after stopping. Some chemical and radiological substances such as asbestos and radon also increase the risk of the cancer.
Avoiding the known risk factors for lung cancer and practicing the following protective factors may help you prevent lung cancer. Share them with your friends and loved ones:
• Do not smoke! The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke.
• Have your home tested for radon.
• Eat more fruits and vegetables – Studies show that eating a lot of fruits or vegetables may help lower the risk of lung cancer.
• Exercise regularly. Physical activity can lower the risk of lung cancer even in people who do smoke tobacco products.
Doctors have a wide range of diagnostic procedures and tests available to detect the presence of lung cancer, which include, but are not limited to:
• A careful consideration of your health history and a thorough physical examination may reveal symptoms or signs that are of concern or are known indicators of lung cancer.
• Chest X-ray – most common first diagnostic step when any new symptoms of lung cancer are present.
• CT (computerized tomography, computerized axial tomography, or CAT) scans may be performed if the X-ray does not yield sufficient information to confirm the presence of a tumor in the lungs.
• Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may be appropriate when precise details about a tumor's location are required.
• Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning is a specialized imaging technique that uses short-lived radioactive drugs to produce three-dimensional colored images of those substances in the tissues within the body. PET scans can determine whether a tumor is actively growing and can aid in determining the type of cells within a particular tumor.
• Bone scans are used to create images of bones on a computer screen or on film. Doctors may order a bone scan to determine whether a cancer has metastasized to the bones.
When lung cancer is diagnosed, the doctor must determine the type (small cell or non-small cell) and the extent of spread or stage of the cancer in order to decide on the best course of treatment for each patient. The currently available treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and clinical trials. If lung cancer is diagnosed, please consult your doctor about the best treatment options customized to your personal profile. You could get a personalized report of treatment options using AFCR's Treatment Decision Tools.