10 Lung Cancer Facts You Should Know

Written by Pliro
Dec 9, 2016 Last updated: Jan 11, 2017

Presently, various kinds of cancer have claimed around 100,000 lives in a single year in Pakistan alone. Arguably, we have an ever increasing trend between the years 1990 and 2013. Therefore, this makes Pakistan just one out of sixty-two countries where this has been known to occur. According a report based on a worldwide study titled, ‘The Global Burden of Cancer 2013’, the number of new and fatal lung cancer cases has doubled. It has reached up from 7,700 to 15,500 individuals. This has been more common in the Pakistani male population in just the space of a few years.

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in either one or both of an individual’s lungs. As they grow, these abnormal cells do not develop into healthy lung tissue. Instead, they form tumors and, as a matter of fact, interfere with the functioning of a normal and healthy lung. Lungs provide oxygen to the body through the bloodstream.

Presumably, primary lung cancer is the most common out of all. It starts and stays in the individual’s abnormal lung cells. On some occasions however, people will have cancerous cells from other parts of their body. They then travel and develop in their lungs. Therefore, this is called secondary lung cancer because the lungs are the secondary site, from the place of the cancer’s origin.

Smoking has been identified to be the leading cause of lung cancer.

Smoking is highly common in the Pakistani population. For this reason, primary lung cancer is more widely known to occur that its secondary form. Lung cancer develops for a number of reasons, and in some cases the cause of the cancer is not clear. However, about 80% of lung cancer cases are due to smoking. Consequently, smokers are over 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers. People who are constantly exposed to passive cigarette smoke are at greater risk of lung cancer.

Lung cancer starts out as a symptom-free disease

Incidentally, lung cancer usually begins when changes occur inside structures of the lungs through the arrival of tiny cancer cells. In the same way, lung cells themselves undergo mutation in the bronchi, and alveolar regions. Furthermore, genetic changes inside lung cells cause the cells to grow faster. At this point, the cancerous cells can’t be seen on X-rays or other imaging tests, and they don’t cause symptoms. As a result, it is most likely that lung cancer has often spread a great deal before it is diagnosed.

There are two main types of lung cancer

Lung cancer falls under two categories depending upon how the cancer cells look under a microscope. Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) account for the majority of lung cancers (around 80%). They develop mainly from the cells which line the lungs. Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) usually accounts for the rest of cases. These are believed to develop from nerve or gland cells. Shortness of breath or coughing occur once a tumor begins to grow and it starts filling up the space in the lungs, leading to shortness of breath or coughing. If it keeps spreading, it destroys lung tissue and may affect nearby structures called lymph nodes. It may eventually grow into the ribs or across to the other lung.

Coughing is the main symptom associated with non-small lung cancer (and primary lung cancer)

Incidentally, the unusual feelings can be attributed to other illnesses including bronchitis. The signs and symptoms of lung cancer can take years to develop and they may not appear until the disease is advanced. Symptoms of lung cancer include coughing, especially if it persists or becomes intense. Shortness of breath, coughing up phlegm or mucus, especially if it is tinged with blood may also occur. Also, symptoms may also include a change in color or volume of sputum, as well as changes in the voice. For instance, the voice may become hoarse with harsh breathing sounds along with recurring lung problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

The common places for lung cancer to spread in metastasized lung cancer includes the bones, brain, liver, and adrenal glands

If the original lung cancer has spread, an individual may feel symptoms in other places in the body more sooner than the lungs. Symptoms of lung cancer may occur elsewhere in the body. These include unexplained weight loss, bone fractures that are not related to accidental injury, and neck or face swelling. Bleeding and blood clots may be signalling lung cancer. It can also have various neurological symptoms, such as an unsteady gait and even memory loss.

Lung cancer is treatable in some cases

The rate of lung cancer being cured is fairly low. Nearly 90 % of people diagnosed are told they will die. However, there is an exception with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer. This type of lung cancer can be easily treated with surgery and stereo tactic body radiation therapy.

Surgery is the oldest and most commonly used treatment for lung cancer

If a cancer is in its early stages, it is possible to completely cure the patient by surgically removing the tumor and the surrounding tissues. Lung cancer surgery can be curative or palliative. Curative surgery aims to cure a patient by removing all of the cancerous tissue. Palliative surgery aims to remove an obstruction or open an airway, making the patient more comfortable but not necessarily removing the cancer. Treatment through surgery carriers its own side effects, most notably pain and infection. Lung cancer surgery is also an invasive procedure that can cause harm to the surrounding body parts.

Radiation can be used to treat metastasized lung cancer

Radiotherapy destroys and shrinks lung cancer tumors by focusing rays on the cancer cells. This causes damage to the molecules that make up the cancer cells and leads them to self-destruct. Radiation can be used as the main treatment for lung cancer. It kills the remaining cells after surgery, and also kills the cancer cells that may have increased in size.

Chemotherapy uses strong chemicals to interfere with the cells and cause them to destruct

Chemotherapy is considered systemic because its medicines travel throughout the entire body. This kills the original tumor cells as well as cancer cells that have spread throughout the body. It can be given before surgery to shrink tumors in order to make the surgery more successful. It can even be used as a stand-alone treatment.

Lung cancer can be prevented

Cancers such as lung cancer, which are closely linked to certain behaviors, are the easiest to prevent. Even if you are a current tobacco user, quitting can still greatly reduce your chances of getting cancer. All in all, the most important preventive measure you can take to avoid lung cancer is to quit smoking.