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What Do You Know About Lung Cancer?

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Pie chart showing incidences of NSCLCs as compared to SCLCs shown at right, with fractions of smokers versus nonsmokers shown for each type, Wikipedia.com

Pie chart showing incidences of NSCLCs as compared to SCLCs shown at right, with fractions of smokers versus nonsmokers shown for each type, Wikipedia.com

Lung Cancer Statistics

As with all cancers, the normal cell division process is disrupted leading to an abnormal, uncontrolled growth resulting in malignant or cancerous cells. The cells grow into a tumor or a mass, which spreads into surrounding tissue and organs.

Lung cancer tends to develop over several years. People who smoke are at the greatest risk for lung cancer, although lung cancer does occur in people who have never smoked.

The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you've smoked. You can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer If you quit smoking, even after smoking for many years. Lung cancer is the second most common malignancy, but it is the deadliest.

Cleveland Clinic lists the following statistics:

  • “Twenty-five percent of all cases of lung cancer worldwide are diagnosed in people who have never smoked. The underlying cause in these cases is not well understood.
  • Two out of three people diagnosed with lung cancer are over age 65.
  • The most common age at diagnosis is 70 years.”

Lung Cancer Types

Small cell and non-small cell lung cancer and the two types of lung cancer. The difference is where they are located in the lungs and how they spread. Non-small cell is the more common cancer, which spreads slowly.

There are three types of non-small cell lung cancer, including:

  1. Adenocarcinoma begins its growth near the periphery of the lung, which is the most common cancer in smokers and non-smokers.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma typically begins in the center of the chest in one of the larger breathing tubes.
  3. Large cell carcinoma also starts near the periphery of the lungs, but it grows rapidly and is usually quite large when diagnosed.

Small cell lung cancer accounts for about 15% of lung cancers. It grows rapidly, and is usually large when diagnosed.

There are other more rare types of cancer that can develop in the chest.

Lung Cancer - Overview

Smoking

People who smoke are at the greatest risk for lung cancer, although lung cancer does occur in people who have never smoked. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you've smoked.

You can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer If you quit smoking, even after smoking for many years,

A chest X-ray showing a tumor in the lung (marked by arrow) Wikipedia.com

A chest X-ray showing a tumor in the lung (marked by arrow) Wikipedia.com

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Symptoms

During the early stage of lung cancer symptoms are rare. Symptoms appear as the disease progresses. Typical symptoms may include:

  • New cough that never goes away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up even a small amount of blood
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Bone pain
  • Weight loss without trying
  • Headache
  • Weakness

Diagnosis

Lung cancer may be diagnosed on a routine chest x-ray or cat scan before you have symptoms. If you have symptoms a scan will be ordered, then if there is a suspicious mass some type of needle biopsy will be done for a true diagnosis.

Lung cancer screenings are sometimes done on a higher risk individual. For instance: “Cleveland Clinic, we have a comprehensive lung cancer screening program for those individuals at high risk of developing lung cancer (aged 55 to 77, 30+ pack-years of smoking, smoked within the past 15 years).”

CT scan showing a cancerous tumor in the left lung Wikipedia.com

CT scan showing a cancerous tumor in the left lung Wikipedia.com

Treatments

An appropriate treatment is based on the type of tumor, how far it is spread and the overall health of the patient. A tumor that has not spread is treatable, but most lung cancers have already spread when they are diagnosed.

Chemotherapy is used to kill the rapidly growing cancer cells. Targeted agents are a newer treatment. They are a drug designed to act against weaknesses in the cancer cells.They may be given orally or intravenously. Targeted therapy has fewer side effects.

Surgery may be used to remove a tumor in conjunction with chemotherapy or a targeted agent. Since chemotherapy attacks cancer and normal cells, there can be side effects like: nausea, vomiting, fatigue or hair loss.

Radiation therapy is also sometimes prescribed as it helps stop some of the pain, coughing, shortness of breath and blockage of the airways.

Risk Factors

The primary risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. Other factors include your family history.

  • Reduce your risk by avoiding the following:
  • Arsenic
  • Asbestos
  • Beryllium
  • Cadmium
  • Substances containing nickel or chromium
  • Coal products
  • Air pollution, such as exhaust from diesel engines
  • Radon. Have your home tested for radon, a radioactive gas that has no color or odor.

Targeted Therapy in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

In Conclusion

There is a great deal of ongoing research into cures for this deadly disease. The survival rate for patients with lung cancer is 25%, but at five years the survival rate drops to 15%.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Pamela Oglesby

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