Lung Cancer – Can it be cured?
Lung cancer is a common disease in smokers, affecting millions of people around the world.
In general, doctors classify lung cancer into two types:
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) – this type of cancer represents 80–85% of all cases. Fortunately, it is not aggressive and responds to treatment.
Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) – makes up around 15–20% of all lung cancer cases. SCLC grows faster and spreads to other areas of the body. It is also extremely sensitive to chemotherapy; however, many cases relapse due to widespread metastasis.
In rare cases, lung cancer may consist of both types of cells (NSCLC and SCLC).
In this article, we will cover the causes of lung cancer, as well as the common clinical presentation.
Causes of lung cancer
As just mentioned, smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer. According to reports, 90% of all lung cancer cases are the direct result of smoking.
When you start smoking, the substances found in cigarettes will progressively damage your lung tissue. As a result, the lungs initiate several mechanisms to repair the damage and replace the dead cells. The constant cycle of dead cells and repairing them predispose you to lung cancer due to the higher risk of a genetic mutation.
Small-cell cancer cell is primarily seen in heavy smokers; however, when you quit smoking, your risk of developing lung cancer decreases.
According to the American Lung Association, radon (a radioactive gas) is the second-leading cause of lung cancer.
Other substances that increase the risk of lung cancer include:
- Some petroleum products
Signs and symptoms of lung cancer
The signs of lung cancer do not change based on its type.
Early signs and symptoms include:
- Worsening cough
- Hemoptysis (coughing blood)
- Chest pain
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Anorexia (i.e., loss of appetite)
- Recurrent pulmonary infections
Identifying lung cancer at this stage is crucial to improve the prognosis of patients. After the cancer spreads to other tissues, it will be more difficult to eradicate, requiring long sessions of chemotherapy with questionable efficacy (especially in the case of SCLC).
Treatment of lung cancer
Once you get the diagnosis of lung cancer, your doctor will cover all the treatment options available, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.
If your cancer is accessible, surgery may also be an option.
The treatment of lung cancer is a multidisciplinary process that involves the following specialists:
- Thoracic surgeon
- Lung specialist
- Medical oncologist
- Radiation oncologist
Once the cancer is eradicated, your doctor will schedule regular checkups to make sure it doesn’t relapse. The 5 year survival rate for lung cancer is not to good, it is only 56% if the disease has not spread beyond the lungs.
Lung cancer is a very common disease that mainly affects smokers. Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, the treatment will vary.
We hope that this article highlighted the main concepts of lung cancer and the importance of early diagnosis.