What is Lung Cancer?
Among the many types of cancer, lung cancer ranks as sixth among the leading causes of death worldwide.
Based on statistics from the Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN), lung cancer is that it is second among the most common types of cancer in the Philippines. And one of the must-know facts about lung cancer is that it has the highest mortality rate compared to other types of cancer in the country.
But what is lung cancer? Is it only caused by smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke? Are other groups of people at risk? Let’s find out more lung cancer facts to better understand what causes it, and how it can be prevented.
Lung Cancer Facts
Before we answer the question “What is lung cancer?” we first need to understand what cancer is.
Cancer refers to a group of diseases that happen when the cells in the body start replicating abnormally and uncontrollably. This can happen to any type of cell in the body, and it can also spread or metastasize to other organs if left untreated.
These abnormal cells don’t function like healthy cells, and this causes any affected organs to have difficulty in performing their regular functions. Eventually, this causes the affected organs to fail, resulting in death.
In the case of lung cancer, the abnormal cells start replicating in a person’s lungs, causing breathing problems. Cancer cells can eventually spread throughout the entire body, and cause other complications.
What Are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?
The symptoms of lung cancer can vary from case to case. Sometimes, the symptoms appear connected with a person’s breathing, but there are cases where it can affect other parts of the body, especially if the cancer has already metastasized.
Here are some of the more common symptoms of lung cancer:
- Persistent cough that does not seem to go away
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Sudden, unexplained weight loss
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pains
These symptoms can also be present in other lung diseases. So if you experience any of these symptoms, it would be best to visit your doctor in order to get a clear diagnosis of what the problem might be.
What Causes Lung Cancer?
Have you ever asked yourself, “What is lung cancer’s number one cause?” You might be surprised that you already know the answer.
By far, one of the most well known lung cancer facts is that the number one culprit is smoking. Smoking not only affects the lungs of the person smoking the cigarette, it also affects the lungs of people who inhale secondhand smoke.
In fact, prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke has been recognized as a definite cause of lung cancer. It’s clear that smokers are not only putting themselves at risk, but the people around them as well.
Here are some other potential causes of lung cancer:
- Constant exposure to air pollution such as smoke from factories, cars, etc, can potentially increase the chances of acquiring lung cancer.
- Exposure to carcinogenic substances such as arsenic, chromium, and nickel are also a risk factor.
- Having a family history of lung cancer increases a person’s chances of being diagnosed with the disease.
- In some cases, otherwise healthy people are diagnosed with lung cancer. However, the possibility of this is extremely low.
How Can You Tell If You Have Lung Cancer?
When it comes to testing for lung cancer, there are various invasive and non-invasive procedures in order to test for its presence.
Here are some of the tests for lung cancer:
- X-rays or CT scans can reveal any potential abnormalities or tumors in a person’s lungs.
- In some cases, a person’s sputum or mucus can be tested to see if there are any cancer cells in it.
- A biopsy or a tissue sample of the cells in your lungs might be required for testing. The doctor can either insert a tube down your throat into your lungs to check if there are any cancer cells, take a sample of tissue from your lymph nodes, or use a needle to directly get a tissue sample from your lungs.
If the test results show that there are cancer cells, then your doctor will need to evaluate how widespread the cancer is. This could mean further testing, and conducting other procedures in order to check if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.
How to Treat Lung Cancer
In terms of treatment, there are a number of options available for treating lung cancer. However, it depends on the severity of the cancer, as well as the patient’s choice. This is why consulting with a doctor in order to find the best form of treatment is advisable.
Here are some of the most common ways of treatment for lung cancer:
Under chemotherapy, drugs are used in order to kill cancer cells. This may also be used in conjunction with other types of treatment.
As the name implies, radiation therapy uses targeted radiation in order to kill cancer cells in the body. It’s usually used in conjunction with chemotherapy to help eradicate all of the cancer cells in the body.
There are situations where your doctor needs to take out a part of your infected lung in order to remove the cancer entirely. This is also used in conjunction with chemotherapy to help kill any remaining cancer cells.
Much like radiation therapy, radiosurgery uses radiation to target specific areas of the body. The main difference is that radiosurgery is much more targeted, and ideal for people with small cancers, or even brain cancer.
Targeted drug therapy
Targeted drug therapy uses drugs that are specifically designed to target specific cancer cells in the body. However, these have very specific uses, and are used for more severe cases.
Cancer cells usually create proteins that prevent the body’s immune system from targeting them. Under immunotherapy, drugs are used to interfere with the process, and allow the immune system to directly attack the cancer cells.
Palliative care, while not a cure, can help greatly improve the quality of life of a cancer patient. This helps them cope better with the treatments, and helps manage any symptoms of cancer as well as side effects of the treatment.
How to Prevent Lung Cancer
Just like other cancers, there is no confirmed way of completely avoiding the risk of lung cancer. However, there are a number of things that a person can do in order to significantly lower the risk of lung cancer.
Here are some some tips on lung cancer prevention:
- If you are a smoker, it would be best to stop smoking immediately. The earlier you quit smoking, the lower your chances are of acquiring lung cancer. You’re also lowering the risk of cancer for other people around you.
- As much as possible, try and avoid being around smokers, or polluted air. If you can, wear an N95 rated mask when you go out, so that it can filter out any pollutants in the air.
- Radon levels in your house can potentially cause lung cancer, so it would be a good idea to test for radon to ensure that the levels are within the normal range.
- If your work exposes you to any harmful or carcinogenic chemicals or substances, be sure to wear the proper safety equipment and follow proper safety protocol.
- Exercise daily and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
These steps should not only help lower your risk of lung cancer, but other types of cancer as well.
Because of the numerous advancements that medical science has made when it comes to cancer research, the mortality rate for people diagnosed with cancer has significantly decreased. Despite this, the number of people who are being diagnosed with cancer, especially lung cancer, has gone up.
However, by making informed health decisions and significant changes to our lifestyle, we can lower our chances of being diagnosed with not just lung cancer, but numerous other diseases as well.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.