Lung cancer is a kind of cancer that begins in the lungs. Your lungs are two spongy organs in your chest that take in oxygen when you inhale and release carbon dioxide when you exhale.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in most countries. It claims more lives each year than colon, prostrate ovarian and breast cancers.
People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you’ve smoked. If you quit smoking, even after smoking for many years, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer.
Lung cancer typically doesn’t cause signs and symptoms in its early stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur only when the disease is advanced.
Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include
- A new cough that doesn’t go away.
- Changes in a chronic cough or “smokers cough”
- Coughing up blood, even the tiniest amount.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain
- Losing weight without trying
- Bone pain
Smoking causes the majority of lung cancers, both in smokers and people exposed to second hand smoke. But lung cancer also occurs in people who never smoked and in those who have prolonged exposure to second hand smoke. In this cases, there may be no clear cause of lung cancer.
Doctors believe 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 your 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.
TYPES OF LUNG CANCER
Based on the appearance of lung cancer cells under the microscope, lung cancer can be divided into two major types. Treatment decisions will be made based on the type of lung cancer presented. They include
- SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER: Small cell lung cancer occurs almost exclusively in heavy smokers, and is less common than non-small cell lung cancer.
- 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.
When it comes to treatment options, its best to discuss with your doctor. Your treatment plan will be based on a number of factors, such as your overall health, the type and stage of your cancer, and your preferences. Options typically include one or more treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted drug therapy.
In most cases, you may choose not to undergo treatment. For instance, you may feel that the side effects of the treatment may outweigh the potential benefits of the treatment. When that’s the case, your doctor may suggest comfort care to treat only the symptoms the cancer is causing, such as pain and shortness of breath.