What do you need to know about lung cancer? Unless you or someone you love has been diagnosed with it, it may be nothing more than a distant thought. However, it's important to know that lung cancer kills more individuals than any other type of cancer. This is largely because most people who have it don't have any symptoms until the disease has already done its damage. Here, you can learn more about the symptoms of lung cancer. You also have the chance to learn about potential complications, risk factors, and the different types of lung cancer. Along the way, you can learn about potential treatment options as well.
There are two different types of lung cancer that a person can have, small cell and non-small cell. The former isn't as common and is typically associated with heavy cigarette use. In fact, those diagnosed with this form of cancer are almost always smokers. On the other hand, the latter form of cancer includes several different types of disease, including large cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
As previously mentioned, it can be very serious. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is more deadly than any other type of cancer. As such, it is something that must be taken very seriously. People who are diagnosed with lung cancer typically start some form of treatment right away in an attempt to keep the disease under control as much as possible. While it may not always be possible to cure lung cancer, there have been recent advances in treatment that can potentially improve quality of life and allow those who have been diagnosed with the disease to live longer.
There are a number of potential signs and symptoms of this disease. However, most people don't start experiencing symptoms while it is still in its early stages. In fact, the disease is typically quite advanced by the time anyone starts experiencing symptoms. This complicates treatment options in many cases. Typical signs and symptoms of the disease include unintentional weight loss, shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, hoarseness, and headache. In addition, there may be blood present when a person coughs. It is worth noting that if the headache is present and is associated with the diagnosis, it is most likely because cancer has already metastasized to other parts of the body.
Without a doubt, the people who are most at risk for contracting lung cancer are those who either smoke or are around secondhand smoke. However, a person doesn't have to be a smoker in order to get lung cancer. The truth is, individuals who have never smoked or been around it can and do contract the disease. Scientists are still unsure about why this happens. Other individuals who are at risk include those who have been around asbestos, radon gas, and other potential carcinogens that can be breathed in. Anyone who has had previous radiation treatment for a different cancer diagnosis is also more likely to get lung cancer, especially if the radiation treatment involved the chest. Last but certainly not least, those individuals who have close relatives previously diagnosed with the disease are more likely to get it themselves. This includes anyone who has had a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with it. Therefore, those individuals should be more diligent in realizing potential symptoms. Depending on family history and other personal risk factors, it may even be pertinent to get periodic screenings for the disease whether symptoms are present or not.
Lung cancer can cause a number of potential complications, not the least of which involve cancer metastasizing. It is not at all uncommon for lung cancer to metastasize, often reaching the brain. Another potential complication involves pleural effusion. This is when fluid accumulates in the space between the lungs and the chest cavity. It can be excruciatingly painful, making it difficult to take a breath. When pleural effusion occurs, it has to be treated by a medical professional. The fluid is drained so that the patient is able to breathe better with less pain. Certain steps can be taken to reduce the chances that pleural effusion will recur, but anyone suffering from lung cancer is more prone to having this happen more than once.
As discussed, symptoms aren't typically present until the disease has become quite advanced. When a person presents with symptoms, cancer can typically be definitively diagnosed by a chest x-ray, a CT scan, or a biopsy. In all likelihood, one or all of these methods will be used to make the diagnosis. Anyone who has even the slightest symptom should be seen by a medical professional right away.
There have been major discoveries in the treatment of all types of cancer within the last couple of decades and lung cancer is no exception. If the disease can be successfully diagnosed and treated before it metastasizes, it may be possible to cure it, effectively putting the patient in remission. However, lung cancer that has metastasized to other parts of the body is exceptionally difficult to cure. As such, patients who are dealing with this type of situation may not be cured. However, treatments are available that may help them live with less pain. They may even be able to live longer with a better quality of life.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce your chances of getting lung cancer. Don't smoke and if you do currently smoke, stop. Watch your alcohol intake and have your home tested for radon. It's important to avoid other carcinogens and use breathing protection when you can't avoid them in their entirety. In addition, you should eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to keep your immune system healthy. Last but not least, be sure to get plenty of rest.
When diagnosed with lung cancer, patients typically undergo both radiation and chemotherapy. They may also participate in drug therapy, immunotherapy to strengthen their immune system and nutrition therapy at the same time. Many patients also incorporate alternative medicine such as acupuncture. If cancer cannot be successfully controlled using these measures, surgery to remove part or all of the lung may be necessary.
According to the American Lung Association, the 5-year survival rate for patients with lung cancer that has not yet metastasized to other parts of the body is 56%. This is far better than it was only a few short years ago. Unfortunately, the 5-year survival rate for patients who have lung cancer that has metastasized is still only 5%. It's important to note that only 16% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed while the cancer is still localized to the lungs.
Obviously, greater strides need to be made in diagnosing lung cancer in its earliest stages. This provides patients with the best opportunity for a successful outcome. While it is uncommon for patients with metastasized lung cancer to survive in the long-term, it may be possible for them to feel better and live longer because of more recent types of therapy. The best course of action is to live a healthy lifestyle and get regular screenings, especially for those with certain risk factors.