The deadliest kind of cancer is lung cancer. People suffer each year from its devastating and lasting effects. It is the foremost cause of cancer death and is the second most common type of cancer. Men and women both have lung cancer. It affects over 200,000 people every year in the United States. 116,900 men and 103,350 women were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 according to the American Cancer Society. Also, 159,390 people have died from lung cancer in this year. African American men have the highest occurrence of lung cancer and the lowest survival rate (Science Daily).
I will be explaining what lung cancer is, the types, risk factors, symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments. Lung cancer is uncontrolled abnormal cell growth in the lungs. The abnormal cells do not carry out the normal functions of a healthy cell. As they grow, tumors can grow which can further obstruct the function of the lungs. Many different cells make up the lungs. The majority of the cells are epithelial cells which line the airways and produce mucus, which lubricates and protects the lung (ASCO Cancer Foundation). Without these cells properly functioning, the lungs are not able to provide the needed oxygen.
Lungs are a vital organ in the human body. They take in oxygen in the air and supply it to the body by the use of the bloodstream (Cancer Care). Small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are the two types of lung cancer. The more common of the two is NSCLC, which is derived from the epithelial cells. Only 15% of lung cancer cases are of small cell lung cancer (Medline Plus). Small cell lung cancer comes from nerve cells and gets its name from its shape and size under a microscope. The difference between small cell lung cancer and NSCLC is highly important because it determines the type of treatment (Cancer Care).
Those with small cell lung cancer are higher at risk to develop lung cancer again. Small lung cancer spreads faster than NSCLC and is rare to have in a non-smoker. It is more common for older adults over 45 to have this kind of cancer. Lung Cancer begins when cells are collected together and form a lump, which is also called a tumor. It can be either cancerous which is called malignant or noncancerous which is known as benign. The malignant tumor is able to spread and infect other parts of the body. The fluid that surrounds the tissue in he lung, which is called the lymph, can transport cancer cells if the cancerous tumor sheds them. They can also be transported through the bloodstream. Metastasis occurs when a cancer cells move to another part of the body by leaving its source through the bloodstream or through lymph. It is basically the spread of cancer. For lung cancer, the most common areas the cancer spreads is in the lung, lymph nodes, adrenal glands, liver, bones, and the brain. What causes lung cancer is no mystery. The leading cause is tobacco as it damages cells in the lung. Tobacco is a carcinogen which means it is cancer-causing.
Cigarette smoke causes most lung cancer (Medline Plus). The more cigarettes smoked over a long period of time can heighten the risk. According to the American Cancer Society, “About 85% to 90% of lung cancer deaths are caused directly by smoking, and many others are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke”. About 3,000 deaths of lung cancer are from secondhand smoke in the U. S. Radon, pollution, and asbestos exposures are also known factors that contribute to lung cancer. Radon is odorless gas that occurs naturally in nature that travels up from the soil and into the air we breath.
These risk factors can alter the DNA of cells which creates abnormalities in the cell. People may also inherent genetic DNA mutations that increases their risk. Lung cancer is more likely to be caused environmental factors than to be genetic. If someone has lung cancer they may experience certain symptoms. A few common symptoms are a continuous cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood, fatigue, recurring issues with bronchitis or pneumonia, wheezing and loss of appetite (Medline Plus). Since the cancer is able to spread, symptoms can be including in other areas.
Some symptoms may be another medical condition instead of this cancer. Only 25% of those are diagnosed with lung cancer and shows no symptoms. Most symptoms start to occur when a tumor is formed. The tumor can stop the flow of air, create fluid in/around the lung and can cause the lung to collapse. If symptoms arise, it is likely to able to be viewed on an X-ray. Since lung cancer metastasis, the cancer may be discovered in another location. It is still called lung cancer because that is where the cancer originated from. For those who show no symptoms, a CT scan of the chest may discover the cancer.
It also may be discovered when checking for other medical conditions such as heart disease. There are several tests available to diagnose lung cancer and find out whether the cancer has spread. There are even tests to tell which treatment is best. A physical examination can be used as a way to suspect the cancer. The factors that are used to determine the right diagnosis include the size, location, type of the suspected tumor, and the previous test results. To tell if the cancer has metastasized, an imaging test is used. The most definite way to diagnose lung cancer is through a biopsy.
A biopsy is a way to confirm the existence of cancer in the lungs and makes a distinct diagnosis of lung cancer. It is performed by removing tissue sample from the lung to test for cancer by using a thin tube that goes into the nose and to the location of the tumor. If the sample has cancer cells, the type of lung cancer will then be verified. A few tests that may also be used are sputum cytology, thoracotomy, bronchoscopy mediastinoscopy, and a MRI scan. After diagnostic tests are preformed, the staging can then be determined. The stages of lung cancer depend on the location and size of the tumor.
The staging decides the kind of treatment as well as the current condition the patient is in. The stages are different for the types of lung cancer. In NSCLC, it is staged by if the tumor is able to be removed with surgery. The stages of NSCLC is described with roman numerals I through IV. Stage I NSCLC is where the cancer has not yet spread to the lymph nodes. Stage II is where the cancer may include the lymph nodes but are enclosed in the adjacent lung. For Stage I and II the cancer is able to be removed. Stage III NSCLC is extremely difficult to remove from the lung.
The cancer spreads to the lymph nodes which are outside the lungs making it almost impossible to remove all of the cancer. It must be removed little by little since it spread throughout the lung. Stage III is divided into two sections. There is Stage IIIA and Stage IIIB. In stage IIIA, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes on the same side in the center. Stage IIIB is where the cancer has just spread to the lymph modes in the opposite lungs. The last stage for NSCLC is stage IV and means that the cancer has spread to other part of the body through the bloodstream.
Small cell lung cancer is spread out in the lung. It is categorized by limited stage and extensive stage. Limited stage is where cancer is only on one side of the chest in one region and it includes nearby lymph nodes. Extensive stage has cancer cells spread to other parts of the chest and can even be outside of the chest. 70% of all small cell lung cancer patients have an extensive stage. Treatment can be given once the cancer has been diagnosed and classified. Factors such as the size, location, patients’ health, and metastasis all come into consideration.
The main four treatment options for lung cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. Lung cancer patients are usually treated with one or more treatments. Surgery is an effective way to completely remove a cancerous tumor. Stage I and II NSCLC are generally treated with surgery. During surgery, the surgeon removes the tumor as well as the lymph nodes that are next to the tumor. Normal lung tissue is also removed. A lobectomy which is the removal of an entire lobe in the lung has been the most successful for NSCLC.
After surgery, adjuvant therapy is used to lower the chance of lung cancer returning. Adjuvant therapy is meant to kill any remaining cancer cells. It involves a combination of targeted, radiation, and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is a treatment where high energy x-rays are used to eliminate cancer cells. It eliminates cancer cells that are only in its path and damages healthy non-cancerous cells. This kind of treatment cannot be used to treat large areas because of its affects. Another treatment used for lung cancer is chemotherapy.
It is given through an IV injection in order to go through the bloodstream. Chemotherapy works to treat lung cancer by killing cancer cells it targets throughout the patient’s body. Side effects may include vomiting, possible infection, hair loss, fatigue. These side effects will usually leave after treatment is over. Targeted therapy is a treatment used for large amounts of lung cancer cells. According to the ASCO Cancer Foundation, “Targeted therapy is a treatment that target faulty genes or proteins that contribute to cancer growth and development. Chemotherapy followed by surgery is usually recommended for stage III NSCLC. Sometimes both radiation and chemotherapy are used for stage III. Stage IIIb and IV are only treated with drugs. Small cell lung cancer is mostly treated with systematic chemotherapy. Simultaneous chemotherapy along with radiation therapy is used to treat limited stage small cell lung cancer, while the extensive stage uses chemotherapy only. Regular check-ups and physical examines must be given to both small cell lung cancer and NSCLC patients as there is a risk for cancer to return.
In the United States, tens of thousands are cured from lung cancer every year. There are many ongoing and current studies going on to help improve the current methods of treatments as well as develop new ones. The best way to prevent lung cancer is not to smoke or be exposed to it. Even if a current smoker stops after he or she already has lung cancer, there is better chance that it will not return. The patient will also recover from treatment faster. With help of new and better preventions and treatment, lung cancer will hopefully be less of a hazard to our society.
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