What is Lung Cancer?
Just as the name implies, lung cancer begins in the lungs — the spongy organs in the chest that take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Lung cancer a leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more lives than prostate, colon, breast, and ovarian and some other types of cancer. Even though smokers are more likely to suffer it, non-smokers are also at risk of lung cancer. People who stop smoking too may be at risk of lung cancer years after.
Types of Lung Cancer
The most common type of lung cancer is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which constitutes about 70 to 75 percent of lung cancer cases. Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) on the other hand, grows and spreads faster than NSCLC, making SCLC less likely to respond to treatment, and more likely to respond to chemotherapy. There are cases where lung cancer tumors contain both NSCLC and SCLC cells.
Another type of lung cancer is mesothelioma, which is linked to asbestos exposure. Asbestos exposure occurs when microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled. Even though the body gets rid of them, some get stuck in the lungs.
Sadly, lung cancer in its early stage shares symptoms with flu and similar conditions, so it isn`t usually diagnosed early. This is an issue.
Stages of Lung Cancer
Cancer is categorized, based on how far it spreads. It is always better to treat any kind of cancer early. Many times, lung cancer gets late treatment due to late diagnosis.
NSCLC has four main stages, while SCLC has two stages. Let us discuss them.
Stages of NSCLC
- Stage 1
Cancer is only in the lung.
- Stage 2
Cancer is in the lung and also close to lymph nodes.
- Stage 3
Cancer is in the lung and spreads to lymph nodes in the middle of the chest.
- Stage 3A
Cancer is in the lymph nodes, but only on the side of the chest where it first started growing.
- Stage 3B
Cancer either spreads to the lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest, or to lymph nodes above the collarbone.
- Stage 4
Cancer spreads to initially unaffected lung, into the area around the lungs, and sometimes even to distant organs.
Stages of SCLC
- The Limited Stage
Cancer is in one lung or around the lymph node on the same side of the chest.
- The Extensive Stage
In this stage, cancer:
- Covers an entire lung
- Spreads to the opposite lung
- Spreads to lymph nodes on the opposite side
- Spreads to distant organs
- Spreads to bone marrow
- Spreads to the fluid around the lungs
Two out of three people who go for diagnosis are already at the extensive stage of SCLC.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
NSCLC and SCLC have similar symptoms; however, some symptoms come with various stages.
Early Symptoms of Lung Cancer
- Shortness of breath
- Severe cough
- Blood-stained cough
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Respiratory infections
Severe Symptoms of Cancer
The level of cancer spread (the extent to which new tumors form) determines the severity of the symptoms. Here are some of the severe symptoms.
- Lumps in the neck or collarbone if cancer spreads to the lymph nodes.
- Pain in the ribs, back, and hips when cancer spreads to the bones.
- Headache, dizziness, and numbness in arms or legs, If cancer spreads to the brain or spine.
- Jaundice, if cancer spreads to the liver
Lung Cancer and Back Pain
Lung pain and back pain may or may not be related. When they are, it is as a result of the pressure of large tumors that grow in the lungs, or cancer that spreads to the spine or ribs. This back pain comes with numbness and weakness of the arms and legs, urinary and bowel incontinence, and interference with spinal blood supply. The back pain may reduce after chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation.
Without treatment, back pain caused by cancer will worsen. You may shrink or completely take out the tumor through a treatment such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. You could use pain relievers in addition. Acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or opioids such as oxycodone or morphine may be helpful. Doctor`s prescription remains inevitable.
Causes of Lung Cancer
Anyone can suffer lung cancer, really; however, smokers and people with a history of smoking constitute about 90% of lung cancer sufferers.
Smoking causes damage to the lung tissue. The lungs can repair the damage, however, prolonged exposure to smoke can be so overwhelming that the lungs can`t keep up with the repair.
Inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke increases the risk factor of lung cancer. A whopping 7,500 lung cancer deaths occur annually in the U.S. as a result of passive smoking.
These are silicate fibers could stick to the lung tissue for a long time after exposure to asbestos. They cause lung cancer after a prolonged presence.
History of Lung Cancer
People who have a history of lung cancer have a possibility of having it again, in fact, a higher possibility than those who never did.
Prolonged exposure to air pollution from machines, vehicles, and other sources can increase the risk of lung cancer.
Radon gas is one of the causes of lung cancer. It is a natural gas, and a decay product of uranium. When it decays, it forms products that emit a type of ionizing radiation. It is harmful to inhale it. It is responsible for about 12% of lung cancer deaths.
People who have lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have an increased risk of lung cancer.
How to Treat Lung Cancer
You should consult a doctor`s to treat lung cancer. There are specialists who attend to lung cancer cases. Some of them are:
- A thoracic surgeon (one who specializes in treating the chest and lungs)
- A pulmonologist (a lung specialist)
- A medical oncologist
- A radiation oncologist
Here`s how to treat specific types of lung cancer:
How to Treat NSCLC
Do you remember NSCLC? — Non-small cell lung cancer
- Stage 1 NSCLC
You may undergo surgery to remove a portion of the lung and perhaps undergo chemotherapy too.
- Stage 2 NSCLC
You may undergo chemotherapy and a surgery to remove part or the entire lung.
- Stage 3 NSCLC
This stage may require a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment.
- Stage 4 NSCLC
Cure at this stage is such a challenge. Cancer experts may try chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, surgery, and radiation.
Treatment for small cell lung cancer (SCLC) include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery (in rare cases).
Home Remedies for Lung Cancer
Home remedies will not cure lung cancer, however, they will relieve some of its symptoms. As always, check with your doctor if you can use these home remedies.
A massage can relieve pain and anxiety. It makes lung cancer patients feel better. Some massage experts are particularly skilled at attending to lung cancer patients.
Acupuncture eases nausea, pain, and vomiting. Note that acupuncture is not safe for people who have low blood counts or those who take blood thinners.
Meditation is good for managing stress and general relaxation.
Yoga improves sleep and general health.