Lung Cancer Overview
Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and occurs in both men and women. The number of deaths related to lung cancer is more than colon, prostate, ovarian, and breast cancer combined. Lung cancer does not only occur in people that smoke but can happen to anyone. The risk of lung cancer, however, does increase by how long and how much you have smokes before. Once you quit smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer drastically decreases.
Lung Cancer Symptoms
Lung cancer sometimes does not show symptoms at the beginning, and only shows up once the lung cancer is so far along. Some symptoms to look for include a new cough that does not seem to go away, headache, bone pain, coughing up any amount of blood, shortness of breath, losing weight without trying, chest pain, and hoarseness.
You will want to see your physician if any of these symptoms do not go away and symptoms begin to worry you. If you are currently a smoker and have failed at trying to quit, then schedule an appointment with your pulmonologist to get help in quitting.
Lung Cancer Causes
Smoking and second-hand smoker are a cause of lung cancer, but not everyone that has lung cancer was a smoker or was subjected to second-hand smoke. Physicians believe that smoking causes lung cancer because it damages the cells that line the lungs. When you first begin smoking, your body may try to repair the lungs, but after a little bit of time, then your cells also become damaged.
There are a few types of lung cancer including small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer is typically only seen in heavy smokers. Non-small cell lung cancer is a way to describe many types of lung cancers that all act differently.
Lung Cancer Risk Factors
Smoking is the number one risk factor with lung cancer. Lung cancer can also be caused by exposure to second-hand smoke as well. Quitting or removing yourself from secondhand smoke can drastically decrease your risk of developing lung cancer. Radon gas, asbestos, and other carcinogens can also put you at a risk for cancer. People with a family history of lung cancer are also at an increased risk for have lung cancer as well.
Lung Cancer Complications
When you have lung cancer, you may notice that you also experience shortness of breath if the cancer grows to block the airways. Lung cancer can also cause fluids to build up around the lungs which will also make it harder to breathe. This disease can also cause bleeding in the airways, which will also make you cough up blood. Lung cancer may spread through the lining of the lungs and even into other parts of the body which will cause severe pain. Lung cancer may very well spread to other parts of the body, so speak to your physician if you are having any symptoms. You may also notice that you are having pain, nausea, headaches, or any other symptoms that prove that an organ may be affected.
Lung Cancer Prevention
While there is no way to absolutely prevent lung cancer, there are many things that you can do to decrease your chances. If you have never smoked, do not start now. You should also speak with your children about the dangers of smoking, so they know what the dangers are when they face peer pressure. If you are currently a smoker, then you will want to stop smoking immediately, as the risk for lung cancer drastically decreases once you are no longer a smoker. If you never smoke or have quit smoking, avoid secondhand smoke as it can damage the lungs just as easily as smoking. If you live in an area where there is a radon problem, then you will want to have your home tested to ensure that you are living in a safe environment. Take precautions from carcinogens at work too. If your employer provides a face mask when working with certain chemicals, then be sure to use it. Your risk for lung cancer increases when you smoke and encounter carcinogens at work too. Another great choice to make in preventing lung cancer is to eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly.
Lung Cancer Diagnosis
People who have never smoked may also want to consider being tested if they feel as if they are at risk for lung cancer. You can discuss your risk with your physician and decide what is best for you. There are a variety of different tests that your physician may recommend. A computerized tomography (CT) scan can show any small lesions that are in the lungs. An x-ray may be used to see a mass or nodules. If you can cough up mucus, then your physician may be able to exam the mucus under the microscope to see if there are lung cancer cells. A tissue sample may need to be collected. This can be through a bronchoscopy or through a true biopsy. After a diagnosis has been confirmed, your physician will work to decide to what extent your cancer is.
Lung Cancer Treatment
You and your physician will need to work together to decide what treatment will be best for you. You will want to consider your overall health, the type and stage of cancer, and what you are most comfortable with. You may choose to have surgery on your lung, whether it is removing a section or the whole lung. Surgery is a great option if your cancer is staying in your lungs and has not moved to other areas of the body.
Radiation therapy can be used before or after surgery and is often combined with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is typically used after surgery to get rid of any remaining cancer cells in the body.
When you are going through treatment for lung cancer, it is important to communicate with your physician how you are feeling physically and emotionally. You will also want to find a support system whether that is family and friends or a group of people who have been through the same thing.