First recognized as a distinct disease in 1761, Lung Cancer or Lung Carcinoma is the most common cancer in both incidence and mortality in the male population. Although the disease is lower in developing countries, the increased smoking rates and air pollution will pump up the numbers eventually.
In the US, Lung Cancer has a greater impact on the black community and military veterans while it remains the third most common cancer in the UK. Lung Cancer according to the American Lung Association has a 5-year survival rate of 18.6 percent. Although it is lower compared to other forms of cancer. It does not remove the fact that it’s a killer disease that is not to be ignored. With that said, below are five facts that you should know about Lung Cancer.
1. Types of Lung Cancer
Unbeknownst to many, there are two types of Lung Cancer. Each type comes with its unique treatment.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
- The first type of Lung Cancer is Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer or NSCLC. This is the most common type of cancer with 80-85% of those diagnosed fall under this classification. NSCLC has three main subtypes; adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. All three have very similar treatment and prognosis. The names of the subtypes come from the areas of the lungs they originate. Squamous Cell Carcinoma for example starts in the flat cells called squamous cells that line in the airways of the lungs. The Large cell carcinoma, on the other hand, is a quick-spreading hard to treat a form of NSCLC that appears in any part of the lung.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
- In contrast with NSCLC, small cell lung cancer is a rare type with 10-15% of the disease diagnosed fall under this category. In terms of potency, the SCLC spreads faster compared to NSCLC. The treatment for this type of cancer is Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy.
2. Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of Lung Cancer are so common that most patient often ignores. It is also noted by the American Cancer Society that these symptoms are often caused by something else apart from the disease. Nevertheless, knowing is half the battle when it comes to these types of diseases. With that said, if you are having some of the symptoms below, a visit to your neighborhood doctor is highly recommended as a precautionary measure.
Common Symptoms of Lung Cancer
- A cough that gets worse and does not go away
- Coughing up rust-colored sputum or blood (it can be in the form of a spit or phlegm)
- Deep breathing, coughing, or laughing triggers chest pains
- Hoarseness in the patient’s voice
- Loss of appetite
- Unreasonable weight loss
- Breathing difficulty or shortness of breath
- Always feeling tired or weak
- Recurring infections like bronchitis and pneumonia
There are also instances when Lung Cancer spreads to other parts of the body. When this incident occurs, the symptoms below could occur.
- Bone pain specifically in the backside of the hips.
- Changes in the nervous system could also occur which will result in headache, numbness of an arm or leg, dizziness, loss of balance, seizures if cancer spread to the brain
- Cancer spreading to the liver will cause yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck or above the collarbone is also a possible symptom of the spread.
In addition to the symptoms and signs, Lung Cancer also causes various types of syndromes.
The first type of syndrome is called the Horner Syndrome caused by Pancoast tumors that appear on the upper part of the lungs. This affects certain nerves of the eye and face resulting in the symptoms below.
- One of the upper eyelids becomes droopy and weak
- The pupil of the same eye becomes smaller
- The same side of the face will experience little or no sweating
- Severe shoulder pain
Superior vena cava syndrome
- The next type of Syndrome comes from the large vein that carries blood from the head down to the arms and heart called the Superior vena cava, The most common symptoms of this syndrome are dizziness, headaches, and change in consciousness.
The hormone-like substances that enter the bloodstream cause Paraneoplastic Syndromes. It was also noted by the American Cancer Society that these syndromes are sometimes the first indication of Lung Cancer. Some of these syndromes include the following:
SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone) that causes the kidneys to hold water. The symptoms of this syndrome are similar to those highlighted in other syndromes with the addition of cramps, vomiting, nausea, confusion, and restlessness. This syndrome can also lead to coma if not treated.
Cushing syndrome causes weight gain, easy bruising, drowsiness, and retention of fluids. This syndrome can also lead to high blood pressure and even diabetes.
Treatment for lung cancer depends on the type of cancer diagnosed.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Various doctors do treatment for Non-small cell lung cancer. The type of doctors who can treat this type is thoracic surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, and pulmonologists. The methods of treatments are the ones below.
Treatment for NSCLC
- Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
- Radiation Therapy
- Targeted Drug Therapy
- Palliative Procedures
Small Cell Lung Cancer
The same doctors who treat non-small cell lung cancer do treating Small Cell Lung cancer. The methods of treatment, however, is different from the first type. Check out the various type of treatments below.
Treatment for Small Cell Lung Cancer
- Radiation Therapy
- Palliative Procedures
Prevention is better than cure
Lung Cancer is a serious disease that is treatable through various methods. With that in mind, it is highly recommended to avoid substances that trigger the disease like smoking. Avoiding the disease is better than treatment. To that end, a little bit of caution will not hurt especially if the wellness of our body is already involved.