Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs. Lung cancer is a condition that causes cells to divide in the lungs uncontrollably. This causes the growth of tumors that reduce a person's ability to breathe. Typically, the body programs cells to die at a certain stage in their life cycle to avoid overgrowth. Cancer overrides this instruction, causing cells to grow and multiply when they should not. The overgrowth of cells leads to the development of tumors and the harmful effects of cancer.
Symptoms Lung cancer typically doesn't cause signs and symptoms in its earliest stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur only when the disease is advanced. It is important to note that some lung cancer symptoms may be similar to those of a respiratory infection.
Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:
*A new cough that doesn't go away, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest and bone pain, voice hoarseness, weight loss, wheezing, frequent chest infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Make an appointment with a doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you. Early diagnosis of lung cancer can be lifesaving. This is because lung cancer cells can travel to other areas of the body before a doctor detects them in the lungs. If this spread or metastasis has taken place, it makes treating the disease much more difficult.
There are 2 general types of lung cancer.
1. Small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer occurs almost exclusively in heavy smokers and is less common than non-small cell lung cancer. 2. Non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is an umbrella term for several types of lung cancers that behave in a similar way. Non-small cell lung cancers include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
Smoking causes the majority of lung cancers, both in smokers and in people exposed to second-hand smoke. But lung cancer also occurs in people who never smoked and in those who never had prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke. In these cases, there may be no clear cause of lung cancer. People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer, though lung cancer can also occur in people who have never smoked. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes a person has smoked. If a person quit smoking, even after smoking for many years, they can significantly reduce their chances of developing lung cancer.
How smoking causes lung cancer
Research shows that smoking causes lung cancer by damaging the cells that line the lungs. When you inhale cigarette smoke, which is full of cancer-causing substances (carcinogens), changes in the lung tissue begin almost immediately. At first, a person's body may be able to repair this damage. But with each repeated exposure, normal cells that line your lungs are increasingly damaged. Over time, the damage causes cells to act abnormally and eventually cancer may develop.
Prevention There's no sure way to prevent lung cancer, but you can reduce your risk if you:
Don't smoke. If you've never smoked, don't start. Talk to your children about not smoking so that they can understand how to avoid this major risk factor for lung cancer. Begin conversations about the dangers of smoking with your children early so that they know how to react to peer pressure.
Stop smoking. Stop smoking now. Quitting reduces your risk of lung cancer, even if you've smoked for years. Talk to your doctor about strategies and stop-smoking aids that can help you quit. Options include nicotine replacement products, medications and support groups.
Avoid secondhand smoke. If you live or work with a smoker, urge him or her to quit. At the very least, ask him or her to smoke outside. Avoid areas where people smoke, such as bars and restaurants, and seek out smoke-free options.
Avoid carcinogens at work. Take precautions to protect yourself from exposure to toxic chemicals at work. Follow your employer's precautions. For instance, if you're given a face mask for protection, always wear it. Your risk of lung damage from workplace carcinogens increases if you smoke.
Staging of Lung Cancer The staging of cancer indicates how far it has spread through the body and its severity. This classification helps oncologists (cancer treatment specialists) work on a treatment plan to best address the cancer at that particular stage. Staging for lung cancer is extremely complex and extensive with several sub-groups within each stage. Each stage determines whether cancer has or has not spread to nearby lymph nodes. It may also take into account the number and size of the tumors. The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which connects to the rest of the body. If cancer reaches these, it can metastasize, or spread further, becoming more dangerous. Please note that staging definitions may vary.
Hidden or Occult: Cancer does not show on imaging scans, but cancerous cells might appear in the phlegm or mucus and may have reached other parts of the body. Stage 0: There are abnormal cells only in the top layers of cells lining the airways. Stage 1: A tumor has developed in the lung, but is under 5 centimeters and has not spread to other parts of the body. Stage 2: The tumor is smaller than 5 centimeters and might have spread to the lymph nodes in the area of the lung, or smaller than 7 centimeters and spread to nearby tissues but not lymph nodes. Stage 3: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and reached other parts of the lung and surrounding area. Stage 4: Cancer has spread to distant body parts, such as the bones or brain.