When cells of the lung start growing rapidly in an uncontrolled manner, the condition is called lung cancer. Cancer can affect any part of the lung and it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths in both women and men in the United States, Canada, and China. It is most common in adults over age 45, but it can happen to anyone, including small children. Over 1.3 million deaths occur from lung cancer every year.
Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of lung cancer, although it can be caused from a variety of other things such as environmental and work conditions, chemical exposure, family history, or radiation, amongst other causes. There are no “safe” cigarettes on the market, and “low tar” or “no tar” cigarettes are no better for your health. It is best to not smoke, or be around cigarette smoke.
Lung cancer affects damaged cells of the lining of the lungs. Tumors begin to form, depriving the bloodstream of an adequate flow of oxygen. Of the tumor is malignant, the tumors can metastasize and spread to other parts of the body.
The more is spreads, the harder it is to treat. If the cancer is spread via the lymphatic system, it usually spreads very quickly, to far outreaches of the body.
In a nutshell, lung cancer is caused when damage to the core DNA of lung cells are unable to self-heal and the cell is unable to die. The cancer then can overtake these cells, and mutation occurs. Sometimes, people are genetically predisposed to cell mutations, or more likely to develop cancer.
Diagnosis and treatment
X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans can help to diagnose suspected lung cancer. After initial diagnoses, chemotherapy, radiation, or drugs will be used to treat the cancer. Sometimes, surgery is needed to remove tumors, or damaged sections of the lungs. There are many forms of lung cancer, and the treatment options will not be the same for everyone.
- Chest Pain or discomfort
- Cough, sometimes accompanied by blood
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss (unintentional)
- Weakness (generalized)
- Throat soreness, loss of voice, or hoarseness
- Pneumonia or chronic bronchitis
More symptoms may also be present if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, and will be different depending on where it spreads to.
Note that early lung cancer may not cause any symptoms at all, and many patients do not realize they are sick until a progressed stage. It is best to have regular physicals with your doctor, and mention anything abnormal in your breathing patterns or if your coughs develops a mucus or blood accompaniment.
For more information about lung cancer, treatment options, or to find a doctor, visit Cancer.org.