According to the World Health Organization, cancer remains one of the primary causes of death worldwide. Various cancer types, such as liver cancer, stomach cancer, and bladder cancer, affect both men and women. However, recent data shows that lung cancer still prevails as the most common type of cancer present in males worldwide, especially in the United States.
What Is Lung Cancer?
The lungs are essential organs found in the chest area. They are the primary organs responsible for the respiratory system. This is where the exchange of gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide, occurs. Lung cancer develops when there is abnormal cell growth in the lungs. These are called cancer cells, and they can metastasize or spread throughout the whole body, destroying normal body tissue.
Types of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer generally falls under two main types or categories.
According to the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Trends Progress Report, at least 85% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Because of this, it is regarded as the most common lung cancer type. With NSCLC, malignant cells form in the lung and have not metastasized or spread to other parts of the body.
On the other hand, small cell lung cancer or SCLC is the type of lung cancer wherein cancer cells grow much faster and spread more quickly.
Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Different symptoms can be seen in different individuals depending on the progression of the disease. Lung cancer affects your respiratory system. If you have this condition, you may experience the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry or hoarse coughing, usually accompanied by blood
- Chest pains
- Cardiovascular problems
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes, typically around the neck/armpit area
Causes and Risk Factors of Lung Cancer
Research suggests that smoking and secondhand smoking are the leading causes of lung cancers. In the United States, 14% of adults over 18 years old or an estimate of 34.1 million individuals are current smokers, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over 16 million Americans have a disease caused by smoking, which includes lung cancer.
However, there are a few environmental risk factors that should also be considered.
Not only is smoking the leading cause of lung cancer, it is also the disease’s primary risk factor. Data from CDC shows 9 out of 10 lung cancer-related deaths are linked to cigarette or tobacco smoking in the United States.
Cigarette and tobacco products contain toxins that weaken the body’s immune system and significantly damage cell DNA. When a cell is damaged, abnormal cell growth begins and forms a tumor.
Secondhand smoking is the phenomenon wherein a person inhales the smoke coming out of another person’s cigarette, tobacco, or pipe. According to studies, breathing in smoke secondhand reaps the same risk factors as actual smoking.
People battling other types of cancer and currently undergoing radiation therapy in the chest area may have a greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Those who work in soil and water exposed to radon gas or places exposed to asbestos and carcinogens are at high risk of developing lung cancer. These substances are not only found in industrial settings but may also be present in homes and public areas such as parks.
Diagnosing and Treatment Approaches for Lung Cancer
Initially, your physician may order diagnostic imaging tests such as an X-ray, CT scan, PET scan, or ultrasound to check for abnormalities in the lungs. If cancer is found, treatment will depend on the extent of cancer’s growth.
For non-small cell lung cancer, surgery to remove the cancer is recommended, because this type of lung cancer has not spread beyond the lungs yet. The procedure allows doctors to cut out tissues affected by the cancer cells.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are other treatment approaches. These modalities are used for small cell lung cancer. Likewise, there are times when chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are all combined as a treatment plan called neoadjuvant therapy.
Comprehensive Cancer Care in Wooster, OH
Taking care of your body is important, and this includes living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding risk factors for diseases like lung cancer. Having lung cancer is the farthest thing from a walk in a park. Treatment can be stressful mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially. However, you are not alone.
Here at Wooster Community Hospital, our cancer care team is committed to giving you comprehensive and personalized care. Working with the James Cancer Network at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, we aim to deliver the best care possible.
For questions and other concerns, don’t hesitate to call (330) 262-2800. We look forward to serving you!