Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a disease in form of abnormal growth of cells in the tissues of the lungs. This usually results in an uncontrolled growth of cells and leads to a lump that begins to grow within the lung which can later spread to other parts of the body. Metastasis is the term used to refer to the spreading of the tumor (Stoppler). According to statistics from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), lung cancer is the highest cause of all cancer deaths in men and women (CDC). The estimated number of new lung cancer cases in the United States in the year 2009 was 219,440 while the number of deaths totaled 159,390 (National Cancer Institute). Lung cancers are broadly categorized into two Non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer (Lee).

The main cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoking which takes up about 90 of all lung cancer cases. It mostly occurs in adults above the age of 45. Cigarette and cannabis smoking have similar smoke effects on the lungs. Secondhand smoke can also cause lung cancer among non-smokers. The number of non-smokers who die of lung cancer is significant, about 3,000 adults each year. There are other factors that may lead to increased risk of getting lung cancer history of lung cancer in ones family, radio therapy on the lungs, exposure to chemicals known to cause cancer e.g. uranium, beryllium, chloromethyl ethers and diesel exhaust, air pollution and drinking of water with high amounts of arsenic. Radon gas and asbestos also increase risk of lung cancer (Cancer Research UK).

A big problem with lung cancer is that its not easily detectable. Symptoms usually vary with the type of lung cancer and may take some time to develop. Most diagnosis occurs after the disease is at an advanced stage. An X-ray on the patient is required to see the cancer and a biopsy done to confirm diagnosis. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, loss in weight, consistent coughing (sometimes with blood-stained sputum), chest pains and loss of appetite. With confirmed lung cancer other symptoms continue to occur such as pain in the joints, facial swelling, paralysis of the face, general weakness, drooping of the eyelids and bones become tender. The symptoms could be due to other conditions so it is vital to see a physician who performs some tests to confirm diagnosis. Blood work, MRI, CT scans, X-rays of the chest and positron emission tomographies are some of the tests done (Stoppler).

Generally, the earlier the detection of the lung cancer, the better chances there are of survival. An estimated 60 of lung cancer patients die in a year. Treatment of the disease is highly dependent on the type and stage of the lung cancer. It can normally be divided into 4 stages with each stage varying with the extent of the spread of the cancer. There are 3 options for treatment each with side effects and dependant on the type and stage of cancer Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy (Radiological Society of North America).

Surgery is the main treatment used for patients in the early stages. It aims to totally remove all the tumor cells. If the tumor recurs, it is removed again (RSNA). Its side effects include the accumulation of air and fluid in the chest, chest soreness and short breathes.

Radiation therapy is the other form of treatment. It can be used as the main treatment before surgical operations to reduce the size of the tumor and after surgery to remove any tumor cells remaining. It involves delivering X-rays with high energy to the tumor cells to destroy them. The treatment is given in stages and sessions.

Chemotherapy is a treatment that involves prescribing drugs that are toxic to the tumor cells. Drugs are administered intravenously mostly after surgery to remove any small tumor cells that may have remained. Its used during any of the lung cancer stages (RSNA). It has been found that combination of this treatment and radiotherapy is efficient though various side effects may occur. Side effects include loss of hair, sores on the mouth, nausea and fatigue.

Overall however it is best to avoid the disease as cancers are rarely fully cured. It is better to avoid the disease by quitting smoking which is the highest cause. Avoiding secondhand smoke and dangerous chemicals in the workplace could also go a long way in preventing lung cancer (Fayed). Early detection is also vital for a higher chance of treatment survival.


Post a Comment