In the modern times of blazing-fast internet, everyone knows that cancer is the result of continuous and uncontrolled division of cells. If the cells of the respiratory epithelium quit the normal mitotic cycle (division cycle) then it is termed as Lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the US and across the globe even. Almost 159000 people died of lung cancer in the US in 2005 as per reports.
Types of Lung cancer
Lung cancer is divided into 2 different types based on histology and method of spread. The types are as follows:
● Small cell-lung carcinomas (SCLC) that are most differentiated, divide aggressively and present themselves without invasion into the bronchus. Makeup about 20% of all lung cancers.
● Non-small cell lung carcinomas (NSCLC) that are not much differentiated, are proximal in location and have a rapid spread too. Make up less than 10% of lung cancers.
Adenocarcinomas (contribute about 25-30% of lung cancers) and Bronchioalveolar cancers are further divisions of cancer that are based on the location of cancer Squamous cell lung cancers makeup about 30% of all lung cancers.
Signs and symptoms
Lung cancer can present itself in different forms. The signs and symptoms of Lung cancer vary depending on the type and area of tumour growth but generally, these symptoms are seen commonly:
● Chest pain
● Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
● Hemoptysis (blood in sputum)
● pneumonia (post stenotic) and bronchitis
● Pleural and pericardial effusion
● Weight loss
● Fatigue and fever
Lung cancer is notorious for spreading out to different visceral organs and that too at a rapid rate. When spread it may present with symptoms of the distant metastases which may include bone pains, hepatomegaly, lymphadenopathy and headaches.
Stages of Lung cancer
Lung cancer is divided into stages to better understand the progression of the disease. The NSCLC has 4 stages that are:
The tumour resides inside the lungs and hasn’t spread outside the lungs.
Cancer is inside the lungs, has gone near the lymph nodes but not invaded it.
Cancer has invaded the mediastinal lymph nodes (lymph nodes in the middle of the chest)
Cancer lies in the lymph nodes but on the same side of the chest where it started initially.
Cancer has is now found in lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest.
Cancer has metastasized into both lungs or even distant organs such as liver, brain, etc.
On the other hand, SCLC has only two main stages. A limited-stage means cancer resides in only one lung, is near to but hasn’t invaded the lymph nodes.
Conditions worse than this come under the extensive stage. In this stage, cancer may be spread throughout the lung or to the opposite lung and distant organs.
Causes and Risk factors
Cancer is a mysterious disease that has no definitive cause. Lung cancer is no exception. The exact causes are unknown but still, doctors have identified certain risk factors that can lead to the development of lung cancer.
Tobacco smoke is considered to be the leading cause of lung cancer. Cigarette smoke is the most common form of tobacco consumption. Therefore, the cigarette is the biggest culprit in causing lung cancer.
80-90% of all lung cancers are caused by smoking. According to reports, 81% of deaths due to Lung cancer in US adults (over 30 years of age) were attributed to cigarette smoking.
Smoking damages the lungs in many ways. It disintegrates the alveolar sacs and leads to emphysema. The reduced surface area makes smokers hungry for air due to which they cough repeatedly to clear the airways. Thus, have a typical “smoker’s cough”.
This disintegration results in increased difficulty for the lungs to repair thus becoming more prone to establishing cancer.
Cigarette smoke contains plenty of irritants, several of which (almost 60) are recognized as carcinogenic. The different carcinogens include Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, aromatic amines and N-nitrosamines, etc.
Passive smoking can also lead to lung cancer in non-smokers. In a study of lung cancer patients, a link was found between lung cancer and passive smoking habits (mainly because of husband’s smoking habits).
Exposure to Radon
Radon is a radioactive gas that is found naturally. Uranium present in the rocks is a source of radon gas. If this gas is breathed in, it can inculcate permanent damage to the lungs that may lead to cancer.
Smokers are at a greater risk of developing cancer if exposed to radon.
Some other substances when breathed in can have similar effects. These include arsenic, asbestos, chromium, nickel and uranium. Asbestos causes mesothelioma.
The code for abnormal cell division, sometimes, lies within one’s DNA. The DNA expresses itself in the form of genes and alleles.
Scientists have recognized certain genes, that when switched on by any changes to the DNA, can lead to uncontrolled growth of a cell. These genes are known as Oncogenes.
If you are prone to developing lung cancer owing to the genetic history then you should follow these steps to prevent lung cancer occurrence:
● Avoid smoking and any sort of tobacco
● Say non to secondhand smoke
● Eat a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables (carrots, broccoli, spinach) and fruits (berries and apple). Vegetables and fruits are rich sources of beta-carotene and carotenoids that are potent anticancer substances.
● Avoid radon and carcinogen exposure
● Take vitamin supplements because a link has been found between vitamin deficiency and occurrence of cancers
Treatment options for Lung cancer include Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and surgery.
Stage 1 and 2 of NSCLC can be treated with surgical removal of tumor paired with chemotherapy while stage 3 may require the addition of radiation too.
Stage 4 is a tough nut and involves a multi-disciplinary approach that includes surgery, radio and chemotherapy with targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
Patients can try massage, hypnosis, yoga and acupuncture at home to treat lung cancer and to relax the body.
Lung cancer is a lethal disease that progresses rapidly. It can be prevented by abstaining from tobacco and eating a healthy diet.