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Lung Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. These cells can form tumors that interfere with the functions of the lung, (i.e. providing oxygen to the body). Sometimes cancer will travel from one part of the body or metastasize to the lungs. This is called secondary lung cancer.

Know What To Look For

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) are the two major types of lung cancer. NSCLC cancer makes up 90% of lung cancers and types include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma. NSCLC is less responsive to chemotherapy than SCLC, which tends to grow quicker than NSCLC cancers.

Mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, affects the lining of the lungs and abdomen.

Lung cancer is one of the most preventable, though most deadly, cancers in men and women around the world. 

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Signs & Symptoms

Warning signs of lunch cancer include:

  • Coughing, especially if it persists or increases in intensity
  • Pain in the chest, shoulder or back unrelated to coughing
  • A change in color or volume of sputum (saliva and mucus)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Changes in the voice
  • Coughing up blood

If the lung cancer has spread, a person may feel symptoms in other parts of the body such as other parts of the lungs, lymph nodes, brain, liver, bones and adrenal glands.

Diagnosis Of Lung Cancer

Screening Tests

Lung cancer screening is recommended only for those without any symptoms but at high risk for developing the disease because of smoking history and age.

  • Low-dose computed tomography: Also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT. An X-ray machine scans the body and uses low doses of radiation to photograph the lungs. Studies have, so far, shown that only LDCT scans reduce the risk of death from lung cancer in populations considered high-risk.
  • Sputum Cytology: A sample of phlegm is examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.
Talking With Your Doctor

Your doctor may refer you to a pulmonologist, thoracic surgeon or oncologist for lung cancer treatment. However, physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers and other health and hospital professionals may be a part of your treatment plan. 

Some questions you might consider asking a health professional include:

  • What kind of lung cancer do I have?
  • Where exactly is the cancer? Has it spread beyond where it started?
  • What is the stage of my cancer, and what does that mean in my case?
  • Will I need any other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Have the cancer cells been checked for gene changes that could affect my treatment options?
Causes And Risk Factors Of Lung Cancer

The best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer is to not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.

Some causes of lung cancer are:

  • Smoking, or inhalation of secondhand smoke
  • Asbestos fibers (mesothelioma)
  • Radon gas
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Genetics
Prevention Of Lung Cancer

Ways to reduce your chances of lung cancer include:

  • Smoking cessations
  • Wearing protective equipment when working with asbestos
  • Proper ventilation of radon gas
Stages Of Lung Cancer
  • Stage I: The cancer cells are located in the lungs. They have not spread to the lymph nodes or beyond.
  • Stage II: The cancer cells are located in the lungs. They have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: Cancer is found in the lung and in the lymph nodes in the middle of the chest, also described as locally advanced disease.
    • Stage IIIA: The cancer has spread only to lymph nodes on same side of the chest where the cancer started.
    • Stage IIIB: The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest, or above the collarbone.
  • Stage IV: The cancer cells have spread through the lungs to the fluid surrounding the lungs and distant organs.
Treatment Options For Lung Cancer

For patients with NSCLC, treatment options - either alone or in combination - include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted Treatments
  • Immunotherapy

For patients with SCLC treatment options include:

  • Surgery
  • Preventive Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
Prognosis Of Lung Cancer

When discussing patients with Stage I, II, III or IV lung cancer, the five-year survival rate for each is:

  • Stage IA NSCLC: The 5-year survival rate is around 49%
  • Stage IB NSCLC: The 5-year survival rate is around 45%
  • Stage IIA NSCLC: The 5-year survival rate is around 30%
  • Stage IIB NSCLC: The 5-year survival rate is around 31%
  • Stage IIIA NSCLC: The 5-year survival rate is around 14%
  • Stage IIIB NSCLC: The 5-year survival rate is around 5%
  • Stage IV NSCLC: The 5-year survival rate is around 1%
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