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Learn About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that involves abnormal growth of cells that begin in the lungs. The lungs are located in your chest and are responsible for taking in oxygen from the air when you breathe and release carbon dioxide on exhalation. Lung cancer can affect the function of your lungs and make it difficult for you to breathe, as well as spread to other areas of your body.

Lung cancer is the type of cancer that causes the greatest number of deaths in the United States. It is strongly linked to a history of smoking, which is the most common cause of lung cancer, although it can also occur non-smokers.

Symptoms

In the very early stages of lung cancer, they may not be any noticeable symptoms. As the disease progress, people with lung cancer may notice symptoms such as:

  • Persistent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Bloody mucus

If you notice any of these signs and are worried about the possibility of lung cancer, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor.

Diagnosis

There are several diagnostic tests that can be used to check for the presence of cancerous cells in your lungs and exclude other conditions with similar symptoms. These may include:

X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scans to detect abnormal mass or nodule in your lungs.
Sputum cytology to examine the sputum from coughing for the presence of cancer cells from the lungs.
Tissue biopsy of abnormal cells to investigate for cancerous growth.

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, the next step is to work out how advanced the cancer is, known as lung cancer staging. Several imaging tests may be needed for this, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), CT scans and bone scans. It can then be categorized as:

  • Stage I: Cancer is less than 2 inches in diameter and is localized to the lung.
  • Stage II: Cancer is larger than 2 inches or has several structures in the respiratory tract. It may also be present in nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: Cancer is very large and has spread to other organs near the lungs. It may also be present in lymph nodes distant from the lungs.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread throughout the body to distant areas and organs.

For people at high risk of lung cancer, such as if you have a long history of smoking cigarettes, screening for lung cancer is a good idea so that early intervention is possible.

Quitting Smoking

Smoking is the greatest risk factor for developing lung cancer. The longer and heavier that you smoke, the higher the risk of lung cancer becomes. Therefore, the earlier that you can quit smoking or reduce the amount you smoke, the better your chances of staying healthy become.

If you currently smoke, the best way that you can protect yourself from getting lung cancer is to quit smoking. This is not always easy, particularly if you have smoked cigarettes for a long time. It is often useful to seek medical advice if you are trying to quit, as there are several options that can help to make the process more successful.

Treatment

The treatment of lung cancer depends on the specific case and how much the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

Surgery can be used to remove cancerous cells from the lungs or other areas of the body that are affected, such as the lymph nodes. There are various techniques that your surgeon may use that involve the removal of a portion of the lungs. Over time, the remaining healthy portion of your lungs will grow back and make it easier for you to breathe once again.

Chemotherapy is a generalized treatment that targets and destroys quickly dividing cancer cells. It is often given after surgical removal of the main tumor to destroy any remaining cancer cells in the body.

Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation directed towards the area to destroy the cancer cells. This can be done with external beam radiation or with brachytherapy from inside. Similarly to chemotherapy, this is often used to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery.

Finally, if you have lung cancer due to a genetic mutation, there are some targeted therapies that can help to treat lung cancer.

Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about lung cancer or to be screened for the condition, you should see a medical professional. At Central Arkansas Lung, we will be happy to give you personalized and professional advice about how to quit smoking or treatment options for lung cancer.

Simply call us if you’d like more information or to organize an appointment to discuss your symptoms.

Further Reading

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lung-cancer/basics/definition/con-20025531
http://www.cancer.gov/types/lung/patient/lung-prevention-pdq
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/lungcancer-non-smallcell/detailedguide/non-small-cell-lung-cancer-what-is-non-small-cell-lung-cancer
http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/lung-cancer/about/the-lungs

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