What is Lung Cancer?
It is surprising to share that the number people die each year because of lung cancer are much higher than the people die because of breast, colon, and prostate cancers collectively. Lung cancer is the second most common disease that takes lives of men as well as women.
However, before discussing about the lung cancer, let us have a brief focus on our lung.
What is Lung?
Lung is a pair of spongy organs found inside of the chest and plays major role in respiratory system. When air (oxygen) through nose and then trachea (windpipe) and bronchus reach lungs, lungs expand and make available oxygen to a human body. Similarly, it returns carbon dioxide out through breathing. This is the most significant role of lung.
Lung Cancer: Lung cancer primarily starts in the lung cells and makes cell division faster. However, this is initial stage and hence, it does not take form of tumour. But it is also not detectable by an x-ray neither it causes any symptom.
Over period of time, the abnormal increase of cells affects other neighbour cells and cause gene changes, which progress to tumour and cancer. Further, it grows and spreads to other parts of the body.
Types of Lung Cancer:
There are two types of lung cancer:
- Small Cell Lung Cancer: This is very rare type that occurs in small round cell of lung.
- Non-small Lung Cancer: The cancer that grows other than the small cell of lung. This is the most common type of lung cancer. However, it does not grow as fast as small cell lung cancer neither it spreads faster. It is treated differently.
Other Types of Lung Cancer
- Lung Carcinoid Tumours: This is rare type of lung cancer that grows slowly in the lung. It is cured normally by surgery.
- Cancers that Spread to Lungs: Some cancers originate in some other parts of the body, but spread to lung. For example, breast, skin, kidney, pancreas etc.)
Stages of Lung Cancer:
Following are the important stages of lung cancer:
- Occult Stage: When tumour cells originates and seen in sputum; but it is very difficult to diagnose with CT scan.
- Stage 0: Also popular as carcinoma in situ, this is very initial stage and tumour cells remain in innermost lining of the lung.
- Stage I: At this stage lung tumour turns invasive and grows from innermost to deeper lung tissue; however, it does not affect and spread to neighbour tissue. The size of tumour at this stage is about 5 cm (2 inches).
- Stage II: At this stage, the size of tumour is about 7 cm.
- Stage III: The tumour may be grown to lymph nodes or even either side of chest or the neck. Size could be anything (larger than the stage II).
- Stage IV: This is very advance stage, tumours most likely spread to both lungs or even other part of the body such as liver, bones, brain, etc.
Stages of Small Cell Lung Cancer:
It is normally categorized into two following stages:
- Limited Stage: tumour remains on only side of the lung.
- Extensive stage: grows to both sides of chest.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer:
Following are the important symptoms of lung cancer:
- Enduring Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- Chest or shoulder pain
- Fatigue (even after a small work)
- Weight loss without any perceptible reason
- Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that do not go away or keep coming again and again
Causes and Risk Factors of Lung Cancer:
There is as such no known factor or cause that can be identified in advance, cause could be anything. However, following are the causes and risk factors that may cause lung cancer:
- Tobacco smoking
- Exposure to obnoxious gas such as radon, asbestos, and other radioactive elements and air pollution
- Personal or Family History of Lung Cancer
Diagnosis of Lung Cancer:
Depending upon the sizes/stages of the cancer, doctors decide the proper type of diagnosis; however, following are the important methods for the lung cancer diagnosis:
- Physical check-up and medical history of the patient
- CT Scan
- PET Scan
- Bone Scan
Some other methods are:
- Bronchoscopy: In this method, doctor passes a thin tube into the lungs through nose or mouth to check-up.
- Mediastinoscopy: In this method, doctor inserts a tube into the chest through fine hole into the bone to diagnose the area between lungs and lymph nodes.
Treatment of Lung Cancer:
Following are the important types of therapies normally applied for the lung cancer treatment:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
Prevention of Lung Cancer:
It is very difficult to take preventive measures in advance, as the real cause is not known; however, some of the risk factors that discussed above are the possible reason, in such case you should avoid:
- Smoking cigarette or any such kind of tobacco
- Regular medical check-up
As the symptoms of lung cancer is not perceptible until it reached at untreatable stage; therefore, the best preventive step is that keep visiting hospital for the regular medical check-up. In case, if you are a smoker, then it is imperative to take medical check-up of your body regularly.