An abnormal growth of cells that starts invading the normal cells around it is called Cancer. When these abnormal tumor cells are present in the lungs, they lead to lung cancer. There are three main types of lung cancer.
- Most common type of lung cancer. About 85% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancers.
- Subtypes: Squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma
Small Cell Lung Cancer (Oat Cell Cancer)
- About 10%-15% of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers.
- Tends to spread quickly.
Lung Carcinoid Tumor (Lung Neuroendocrine Tumors)
- Fewer than 5% of lung cancers are lung carcinoid tumors.
- Grow slowly and rarely spread.
Each type has different treatment options treatment options. Hence, if you aren’t sure which type you have, ask your doctor so you can get the right information
Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread too far to be cured, but sometimes, we do get symptoms at an early stage.
The most common symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
- Shortness of breath
- Recurring and persistent cough that may or may not get worse
- Chest pain that worsens with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Feeling tired or weak
- Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
- New onset of wheezing
If lung cancer spreads to distant organs, it may cause:
- Bone pain
- Nervous system changes
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), from cancer spread to the liver
- Lumps near the surface of the body, due to cancer spreading to the skin or to lymph nodes
These symptoms are more likely to be caused by conditions other than lung cancer. Still, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Cancer has different stages, each depicted by a Roman numeral from 1 to 4 (I, II, III and IV). Stage I is the first stage where the tumor is still small while at Stage IV, the patient’s condition is said to be critical because the tumor has spread to other organs of the body. Hence, a cancer’s stage refers to the tumor’s size and extent of spread. This is the simplest form of staging.
In lung cancer, the stage depends on whether it is confined to lungs (localized cancer, Stage I) or whether it has spread to other organs (metastatic cancer).
The stage decides the kind of treatment you need to get. The greater the stage number, the more complex the treatment.
Needless to say, if the lung cancer is detected while it is still in Stage I, survival rate is higher. The rate decreases progressively with the increase in stage. Stage III is considered critical, while stage IV is, more often than not, fatal.
However, medicine is evolving everyday to meet these challenges and to keep you happy, healthy and alive!
Lung Cancer can be detected early via screening. Screening is done at the diagnostic stage to check for hidden symptoms.
This stage includes:
- Physical exam and history
- Lab test
- Chest X-ray
- CT Scan
- Sputum cytology
However they have certain risks:
- False-negative test results can occur.
- False-positive test results can occur.
- Chest x-rays and low-dose spiral CT scans expose the chest to radiation.
But it’s best to know for sure! Talk to your doctor about your risk for lung cancer and your need for screening tests. Better sure than wary!
For most small cell and non-small cell lung cancer patients, current treatments do not completely cure the cancer. However, it may be kept in check through:
- Avoidance of risk factors
- Healthy habits
If you have any of the symptoms, please do visit the doctor.
If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned in the Symptoms section , you should probably visit a doctor. You can also get your genetic make-up checked to see if you are prone to lung cancer or not.