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Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer 

Lung Cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the lungs mostly due to smoking. It can also happen due to other external factors such as breathing toxic chemicals or secondhand smoke. Exposure to harmful substances in the air such as radon gas or asbestos and other carcinogens can also cause lung cancer.

 

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

The signs and symptoms of lung cancer are usually noticeable at later stages that include

  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Bone Pain
  • Chest Pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Unexplained Losing weight 
  • Hoarseness
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling in the face, arms, and neck

Lung Cancer

Causes of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is caused due to multiplication and an uncontrollable form of cell division in the body. The normal cells divide when it is necessary and then eventually switch off by dying. However, the cancer cells keep on growing without any control and hide from the immune system for longevity. These prevent the cancerous cells from dying which later starts interfering with your normal cells. These cancerous cells then slowly start spreading to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymph nodes causing serious damage. The major causes of lung cancer that we’ve witnessed are –

  1. Smoking –  It is the major cause of lung cancer among the majority of the population. Doctors are still not quite sure what causes lung cancer but smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. As cigarettes have a carcinogenic substance that when inhaled causes tissue damage in the lungs.
  2. Secondhand SmokeSecondhand tobacco smoke can also cause lung cancer 
  3. Previous Radiation Therapy Previous Radiation therapy around the chest area can also cause lung cancer 
  4. Exposure to radon gas Natural breakdown of uranium in air, soil, and land can cause exposure to radon in the surrounding area.
  5. Exposure to asbestos or carcinogenic Exposure to chromium, nickel, and arsenic can cause lung cancer.
  6. Family historyPeople with a family history of lung cancer in parents, siblings, or children have an increased risk of getting lung cancer.

Diagnosis and Tests

The diagnosis of lung cancer involves a combination of medical history evaluation, physical examination, and various diagnostic tests. Here are the common diagnostic procedures used to detect and diagnose lung cancer –

1. Imaging tests – Imaging plays a crucial role in identifying suspicious lung nodules or masses. The following imaging tests may be used –

  • Chest X-ray – A simple and commonly used test that can identify abnormalities in the lungs, such as masses or nodules. However, it may not provide detailed information about the size, location, or type of the abnormality.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan – This imaging technique provides detailed cross-sectional images of the lungs, helping to identify the size, location, and characteristics of lung nodules or tumors. CT scans can also help determine if cancer has spread to other areas.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan – PET scans use a radioactive tracer to identify areas of increased metabolic activity in the body. It can help determine if lung cancer has spread to other organs or lymph nodes.

2. Biopsy – A biopsy is the definitive method for confirming a lung cancer diagnosis. It involves the removal of a small tissue sample from the lung for laboratory analysis. Biopsies can be obtained through different techniques –

  • Needle biopsy – A needle is guided into the lung tissue using imaging techniques, such as a CT scan or bronchoscopy, to obtain a tissue sample.
  • Bronchoscopy – A thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end (bronchoscope) is inserted through the mouth or nose into the lungs to visualize the airways and collect tissue samples.
  • Surgical biopsy – In some cases, a surgical procedure may be necessary to obtain a tissue sample directly from the lung. This can be done through video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) or open surgery.

3. Sputum cytology – This test involves examining a sample of phlegm (sputum) coughed up from the lungs to detect cancer cells. It is more useful for detecting central lung tumors that are close to the airways.

4. Molecular testing – Molecular testing, also known as biomarker testing, is performed on lung cancer tissue samples to identify specific genetic mutations or biomarkers that can help guide treatment decisions. Examples of these mutations include EGFR, ALK, ROS1, and BRAF, among others.

The specific diagnostic tests used may vary based on individual factors, such as the suspected type and stage of lung cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. The results of these tests provide crucial information for determining the appropriate treatment approach and prognosis for lung cancer patients.

Treatments

The treatment options for lung cancer depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, overall health, and individual preferences. Here are some common treatment modalities used for lung cancer –

  1. Surgery This treatment is possible at an early stage of lung cancer. In this surgery, tumor cells are removed completely along with a small part of surrounding healthy tissue. This avoids the cancer cells to not return as there are no traces of cancer cells left behind in tissues.
  2. Radiation Therapy It uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is used before surgery to shrink tumors or after surgery to kill cancer cells left behind. 
  3. Chemotherapy In this therapy, patients are injected with antidrugs in veins that kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy also increases the prolonged life in older patients above 60 years of age. The effectiveness of chemotherapy can be increased if done in combination with radiation therapy. 
  4. Targeted Therapy It uses natural antibodies to attack foreign cells from bacteria or viruses. It is also combined with chemotherapy for effective treatment. Natural antibodies are also called “monoclonal antibodies” that specifically target the cancer cells on the surface. 
  5. Immunotherapy In this, the patient’s own immune system is used to fight cancer. It helps your body fight infections and other diseases. 
  6. Proton TherapyProton Therapy uses protons instead of high-energy X-rays. It uses positively charged particles to destroy cancer cells. 

Outlook

The outlook for lung cancer varies widely depending on several factors, including the stage of cancer at diagnosis, the type of lung cancer, overall health, and individual response to treatment. Lung cancer is a complex disease, and each person’s experience and prognosis may be different.

Unfortunately, lung cancer is often diagnosed at advanced stages when cancer has spread to other parts of the body, which can make treatment more challenging. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer varies depending on the stage of the cancer of  diagnosis.

These survival rates are approximate and can vary based on individual factors and advancements in treatment options. Additionally, newer targeted therapies and immunotherapies have shown promising results in improving outcomes for certain subsets of lung cancer patients with specific genetic mutations or biomarkers.

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