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Lung Cancer - Diagnosis, Symptoms, and Treatments
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Lung Cancer

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung Cancer is a persistent, destructive and uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells, or a tumor originating in epithelium (the calls that provide protective lining and enclose hollow organs and glands) often recurring after removal or spreading and growing to different sites.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

The most common symptom of lung cancer is a persistent or reoccurring cough. The cough is usually the result of a tumor blocking an airway.

Other frequently experienced symptoms include:

  • Constant ache and pain in areas of the chest, head, back, neck, and/or shoulders.
  • Anemia
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath and hoarseness can come from inflammation or blockage in the lungs
  • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
  • Recurring cases of Pneumonia or Bronchitis
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

*It is also a possibility that an individual will show no symptoms at all up until the time of being diagnosed with cancer.

Common Causes of Lung Cancer

Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of uranium in rocks and soil and is present in the air that is inhaled daily in very low levels.

Radon can damage the respiratory epithelium through alpha particle emissions (a form of radiation). Many members of the armed forces, as well as miners and contractors, come into contact with this depleted uranium and radon. Asbestos, a mineral fiber that has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant, have been known to cause lung cancer years after airborne exposure. Also, water that has been contaminated with heavy metals such as Arsenic, Cadmium, or Chromium has the ability to affect cells in a potentially dangerous way.

As stated on every carton of cigarettes, tobacco whether by direct or indirect inhalation, reduces the lungs strength and ability to get rid of toxins. Weak lungs are more susceptible and vulnerable when attacked by carcinogens (cancer causing agents that damage cells) which are substances found in tobacco. Damaged cells are susceptible to becoming cancerous over a period of time.

Pesticides can also cause lung cancer. There was a carcinogenic pesticide, Agent Orange that was sprayed from airplanes and ingested by ground troops in the Vietnam War causing many cases of lung cancer to those with extensive exposure.

The Five Stages of Lung Cancer

  • In stage zero of Lung Cancer, the cancer is limited to the lining of air passages and hasn’t invaded lung tissue. The cancer can usually be eliminated when caught and treated.
  • In the first stage, the cancer has spread to layers of lung tissue but has not reached the lymph nodes and is confined to the lung.
  • In the second stage, the cancer has reached lymph nodes or spread to the chest wall and is confined to the chest.
  • In the third stage, there are larger and more invasive tumors but are still confined to the chest, and radiation or chemotherapy become necessary measures at this point.
  • In the fourth stage, cancer has spread away from the chest to other parts of the body and there is less chance of surviving the disease.

Treatment of Lung Cancer

Surgery is a treatment option used to remove a tumor and nearby lymph nodes. Surgery is considered as the first option due to the fact that it often offers the greatest chance for survival in the first and second stages. However, surgery may also be an option used after chemotherapy and radiation have minimized the size of a tumor or cancer cells that need to be removed. Two major types of surgery are curative and palliative. Curative surgeries attempt to completely remove the cancerous tumor, and may include removing a wedge, a lobe, or an entire lung. Palliative surgery is the removal of an obstruction or opening of an airway.

Radiation uses high-energy rays to kill or shrink cancer cells. This therapy has to usually be spaced out through weeks or months because the doses needed to kill cancer cells cannot be given all at once and can often damage healthy cells.

Chemotherapy uses strong chemicals or drugs to kill cancer cells, stop their reproduction, or slow their growth. This treatment travels through the blood system to all parts of the body. Adjuvant therapy is chemotherapy treatment that is given in addition to surgery or radiation procedures to reduce the risk of a recurrence by traveling throughout the body and killing whatever cancer cells might remain after surgery. Neo-adjuvant therapy is a chemotherapy treatment that is given before a surgery to shrink the lung tumor to insure successful removal of all cancerous cells.

Prevention of Lung Cancer

To prevent Lung Cancer, individuals must educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of cancer. It is important to know if cancer is in one’s family history. Regular doctor visits and exams can ensure early detection, which plays a vital role in early removal and treatment of cancer and survival. Heeding the warning label on cigarette packages and avoiding the consumption of nicotine as well as following safety procedures in unsafe work environments are also methods of protection from developing a life altering condition.