All About Lung Cancer; Symptoms, Causes, and different Treatments

lung cancer early signs

Lung cancer usually starts in mid-fifties or sixties. Smoking is responsible for 80% to 90% of lung cancer cases.

Lung cancer is particularly threatening because it can spread more easily to the rest of the body than other types of cancer. The blood passes through the lungs to be oxygenated, and the lungs are in contact with blood and lymphatic vessels. Lung cancer is all the more serious cancer because it is often discovered late. It is also the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.

1. Lung cancer; Definition

Lung cancer, also called “bronchial cancer” or “bronchopulmonary cancer” is a malignant tumor developed from the lung’s cells. There are two major types of lung cancer depending on the origin and type of cancer cells; non-small cell lung cancer and lung cancer (very aggressive).

  • Non-small cell lung cancer

Thus, “non-small cell” cancer accounts for nearly 85% of lung cancers. In this family, we find bronchial adenocarcinoma (which originates in the periphery of the lungs), squamous cell carcinoma (in the large bronchi in the center of the lungs), and large cell carcinoma.

  • Small cell lung cancer

“Small cell” cancers make up the remaining 15%. However, if they are less numerous, they are more aggressive because of a rapid proliferation of cancer cells, which increases the risk of metastases.

2. Lung cancer; symptoms

A person with lung cancer may not have any symptoms.

However, signals should alert;

  • A cough that goes on increasing and does not stop,
  • Coughing up blood,
  • Persistent pain in the chest accentuated during coughing fits,
  • Difficulty in breathing,
  • Weight loss,
  • Greater exposure to repeated bronchitis,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Chronic fatigue,
  • Headaches can also be symptoms.

In some cases, a lymph node in the collarbones or at the base of the neck and difficulty swallowing are possible.

3. Lung cancer; causes

3.1 Tobacco

Tobacco is responsible for 8 out of 10 lung cancers. Almost 92% of lung cancer deaths in humans result from tobacco consumption. The risk increases according to the daily dose of tobacco and the duration of smoking. The duration during which one smokes seems to be more important than the number of cigarettes smoked. As young people smoke earlier and earlier, the age of onset of the disease is younger, and it sometimes manifests as early as 40 years old. Due to smoking, lung cancer has multiplied by 7 over the past 30 years and has almost doubled between 2000 and 2012.

Passive smoking increases lung cancer risks by 30% compared to a person living in an environment free from tobacco.

3.2 Causes in non-smokers

In non-smokers, other external factors may be involved in the development of lung cancer. This is the case, in particular, with prolonged exposure to substances such as asbestos, certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (exhaust gases from diesel engines, etc.), ionizing radiation (including X-rays, gamma rays from medical imaging), radon, arsenic, nickel, chromium, silica, cadmium, etc. We can also cite chronic inflammatory diseases of the bronchi or air pollution.

4. Lung cancer; risk factors

A risk factor is something, like a behavior, substance, or condition that increases the risk of developing cancer. Many risk factors cause most cancers. 10Smoking tobacco is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer.

The risk of developing lung cancer increases with age. More than 50% of all new cases of lung cancer are in people aged 60 or older. Men get this cancer slightly more often than women.

Risk factors are usually in rank from most important to least important. But in general, it is impossible to rank them with absolute certainty.

Related: Colorectal cancer; screening and prevention

5. Lung cancer; complications

Lung cancer has many complications, including:

  • Fluid accumulates in the chest
  • Cancer that spreads to other parts of the body (metastasis)
  • Death

6. Lung cancer; diagnosis

If certain symptoms suggest lung cancer, the doctor then orders a series of tests to confirm or deny the diagnosis. Usually, an examination of the sputum for malignant cells is performed by microscopy, an X-ray and a scan of the chest, and a bronchial endoscopy, which allows a biopsy (to identify the type of cancer); the bronchi is to specify the extension of the tumor.

Sometimes a transparietal puncture must be done (using a needle through the chest wall) to collect samples if the tumor is on the periphery of the lung, and the fibroscopy cannot access it.

Histological diagnosis by microscopy of a tissue fragment can distinguish the type of lung cancer (“non-small cell” or “small cell”).

7. Lung cancer; treatment

If someone has non-small cell lung cancer, the healthcare team will create a treatment plan. It will be according to his health and specific cancer information. When the healthcare team decides which treatments to offer for non-small cell lung cancer, they consider the following:

  • The stage of cancer
  • The possibility of removing cancer by surgery
  • The overall health, including lung function
  • The personal preferences

The patient may have one or more of the following treatments for non-small cell lung cancer:

7.1 Surgery

Surgery is to treat non-small cell lung cancer if it can be completely removed and if the patient is healthy enough to have surgery. The type of surgery the patient chooses depends on the location of cancer in the lung. Lymph nodes are removed regardless of the type of surgery performed.

Wedge resection and segmentectomy allow removing the tumor from the lung as well as a margin of healthy tissue around the tumor.

A lobectomy eliminates the lobe of the lung where the tumor is. Bilobectomy is a type of lobectomy that eliminates 2 of the 3 lobes of the right lung.

Pneumonectomy involves removing the entire lung.

Enlarged lung resection removes muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and other tissues near the lung to remove as much cancer as possible.

Chest wall resection removes muscle, bone, and other tissue from the chest wall.

A sleeve resection removes the tumor in the large airway (bronchus) and a margin of healthy tissue around the tumor.

7.2 Chemotherapy

The healthcare team will program the chemotherapy before or after surgery for non-small cell lung cancer. It can also be used as the main treatment if you are not well enough to have surgery or if you do not want surgery. Chemotherapy may also be given after standard treatment to slow or prevent the cancer from coming back (maintenance treatment).

A combination of two drugs is usually to treat Non-small cell lung cancer, which is more effective than giving one drug. The most commonly used chemotherapy drug combinations for non-small cell lung cancer include cisplatin.

7.3 Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is to treat all types of cancer, on its own, or in addition to other treatments. It kills cancer cells with high energy radiation; the “rays” are intended for tumors limited to the chest when they are inoperable, painful metastases and those, placed in the brain or spine, which can reveal troublesome. Faced with lung cancer, external radiotherapy to the thorax aims to irradiate the tumor and its periphery, and locoregional lymph nodes.

7.4 Treatment follow-up

A follow-up after treatment is necessary for people with cancer. The patient will need to have regular follow-up visits, especially during the first 2 years after treatment. These visits allow the healthcare team to control the progress and learn how the patient is recovering from treatment.

Originally published on Live Positively.