Cancer normally means any uncontrolled and abnormal growth of cells and tumours anywhere in the body. There are nearly 100 types of cancers and their type is characterized by the part of the body which is affected. Lung Cancer refers to the uncontrolled growth of cells in the tissue of the lungs. Cancerous cells/tumour in the lungs grows fast and invades the tissues of other organs and this process is known as Metastasis and can spread to any other part of the body. Lung Cancer can affect men and women alike and instances of cancer are high after the age of 65.
There are 2 types of Lung Cancer:
Small Cell Lung Cancer [SCLC] and Non Small Cell Lung Cancer [NSCLC].
SCLC accounts for 20% of carcinomas of lungs [cancer] and spreads rapidly and is mostly related to cigarette smoking.
NSCLC is the most common type of Lung Cancer and is found in women also who do not smoke. NSCLC is further classified into 3 types of carcinomas depending upon the type of the cells affected:
- Adenocarcinomas: When glandular structures in epithelial tissue give rise to a tumour. It begins in the cells that line the alveoli and make substances such as mucus
- Squamos Cell Carcinoma: Different organs are affected like lips, mouth, oesophagus, urinary bladder, prostate, lungs, vagina, cervix and even the skin. It is a malignant tumour of squamous epithelium
- Large Cell Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in several types of large cells
A person having Lung Cancer may have the following symptoms:
- Cough: Persistent cough and chronic cough becoming worse and accompanied with blood in the sputum
- Shortness of breath and wheezing
- Persistent pain in the chest
- Loss of weight, fatigue, hoarseness of voice and difficulty in swallowing food
These are the common symptoms of cancer and other signs may depend on the location of the cancerous growth or spread of Tumours through Metastasis or sometime there may be no symptoms until an Imaging test is done.
The causes of Lung Cancer are:
- Cigarette Smoking is a major cause
- Exposure to radiation from Uranium
- Long term exposure to asbestos and construction sites
- Second hand or passive smoking
- Genetics, heredity and family history
- Metastasis which means spread of cancer from other part of the body
If there are no signs and symptoms apart from persistent cough and chest pain, then an X-Ray will reveal a mass, tumour or cell growth. Then it is to be tested whether the tumour is benign [non cancerous] or malignant [cancerous].
Imaging tests like X-Rays, CT Scan, MRI Scan, Ultrasound and Chest CT.
These tests are undertaken after taking into account the family and medical history of the patient, the exposure of the patient to risk factors. The various tests are performed collectively to arrive at a correct diagnosis and to determine the stage of the Cancer and its type.
First you have to see the Oncologist who treats Cancer.
The line of treatment is decided after the diagnosis of the cancer type and the stage. The options include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and targeted drug therapy. The treatment also takes into account the overall health of the patient. Chemotherapy works better after surgery or as a single line treatment. Newer drugs have managed to reduce the growth of cancerous cell. But the treatment can be successful if the cancer is detected early in its initial stage.
When the chances of a cure are reduced, then the doctor may suggest to the patient to avoid the harsh procedures and instead opt for supportive care. Other mild treatment s may help reduce the discomfort, but not reverse the growth of cancer. Supportive care will help the patient lead a well managed and quality life and chances are that a patient with good supportive care may live longer than one who is taking treatments with harsh side effects.
If someone is already diagnosed with cancer there are exercises and medicines to reduce the discomfort and lead a quality life. But Exercising can keep the killer disease at bay. Physical activity has lots of benefits.
A well balanced diet, exercise and avoidance of risk factors go a long way to keep many lifestyle diseases at bay.
There is no cure for Lung Cancer and it can only be treated. If there is no recurrence of the cancer for 5 years then chances of survival are high.