It is observed that lung cancer is the top cause of cancer deaths in men as well as women. It was not the care earlier, when mechanical cigarette rollers were not available, in those times lung cancer was rare. Presently, smoking causes nearly 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths. Other causes are inhalation of radon gas, pollution and many smaller reasons. Even then the discovery of many potent drugs provide solace to those diagnosed with lung cancer.
Smoking, a major cause
The cigarettes that people smoke are packed with cancer causing chemicals. They also harm the lungs’ natural defence system. Our airways are lined with tiny hairs called cilia, they protect the lungs by sweeping out toxins, bacteria and viruses. Smoking damages the action of the cilia and prevent them from doing their job. This lets the cancer causing chemicals to build-up and cause the disease.
Symptoms of lung cancer
At first lung cancer shows no apparent signs and begins quietly. As the cancer gets worse symptoms like persistent cough, chest pain especially when deep breath is taken, wheezing, shortness of breath, bloody phlegm and continuous fatigue can be seen.
Two types of lung cancer
The two types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer and non small cell lung cancer. The small-cell lung cancer is more aggressive and it has the disposition to spread quickly to other parts of the body very early in the disease. This type is closely related to cigarette use and rarely seen in non-smokers. The non-small-cell cancer grows more slowly and is the common type. It is the one responsible for almost 85% of lung cancers.
What is staging?
Staging is the process of determining how far the cancer has spread. Small-cell lung cancer has two stages, the one ‘limited’ to one lung and ‘extensive’ which means the cancer has spread to other lung and beyond. Non-small-cell type has stages I to IV, depending on how far it has progressed.
How to check lung cancer?
The most effective way to check lung cancer is to use a type of scan called spiral CT which can pick up lung cancer in early stages. It is better that heavy smokers get a CT scan every year. The same is applicable to those who smoke a lot and quit smoking some 10 – 15 years ago.
How is it diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects lung cancer then you’ll have to get a chest X-ray done or other imaging tests. You may also need to cough up phlegm for a sputum test. If any of these tests return positive for presence of cancer then you may have to undergo a biopsy.
Early and advanced treatments
When small-cell lung cancer is found in one lung and it has not spread to the other a surgery can set right things. Surgeons remove a part of the lung or even the entire lung. Radiation and chemotherapy is also given after surgery to prevent any remaining cancer cells from growing. Surgery usually does not help in small-cell type because cancer would have already spread to the other lung. New treatments like targeted chemotherapy and immunotherapy helps in some cases.