Abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the lungs leads to lung cancer. The formation of tumours in the lungs affects other functions, especially breathing. Looking at the numbers, it is one of the prevalent cancers in India which is more common in both active and passive smokers.
Types of Lungs Cancer
Depending on the appearance of malignant cells, lungs cancers are of the following types:
- Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC): This is the most common type and slow-growing cancer which is subdivided into the following:
- Adenocarcinoma: This cancer starts in the mucous producing cells in the lungs.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This cancer starts in the squamous cells lining the airways.
- Large Cell Carcinoma: This cancer starts in the large cells of the lungs.
- Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC): This is another rare and aggressive cancer which is more common in smokers. The cancer is very rapid and spreads to other organs. Hence, it is usually detected at the advanced stage.
The lung cancer may not show any symptoms initially. Surprisingly, it might even be missed during chest X-rays. Hence, it is very crucial to be vigilant and bring any kind of discomfort to the physician’s attention. The common symptoms are:
- Persistent and chronic cough.
- Coughing up blood.
- Pain in the chest.
- Shortness of breath.
- Loss of appetite.
- Abrupt weight loss.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Swollen arms and face.
The major cause of lung cancer is smoking. The other symptoms include:
- Exposure to harmful gases.
- Exposure to harmful chemicals and pollutants.
- Family history of cancer.
- Personal lung cancer history
Lung cancer is diagnosed by:
- Physical examination: The doctor will first understand the current symptoms by assessing the medical history and current condition. If any abnormality is suspected, the doctor will run additional tests.
- Imaging tests: The doctor will initiate a chest X-ray if a lump is suspected. Furthermore, a CT scan will be initiated to confirm the nodule.
- Sputum Cytology: If you have a persistent cough, the doctor may collect cough to check for the presence of sputum and cancer cells.
- Biopsy: The doctor will extract a small tissue from the area and examine for the presence of cancer cells.
The treatment strategy for lung cancer depends on the stage and type of cancer, age, and overall health of the patient. Surgery is usually the mainstay of the treatment. It may be combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy for better outcomes.
- Surgery: Surgery is the mainstay of lung cancer. The doctor will remove a small portion of healthy tissues along with the tumour. In some advanced stages, the doctor may also remove a part of the lung or remove the entire lung. This surgery is followed by lung transplantation.
- Radiation therapy: High energy X-rays will be used to destroy cancer cells. These radiations may be administered before or after the surgery depending on the patient’s condition.
- Chemotherapy: High doses of anti-cancer drugs will be administered to destroy cancer cells. In some cases, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy to remove cells from the body.
- Targeted therapy: Certain drugs will also be administered to target specific cancer cells. This therapy is reserved for advanced cancer.