What is a Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is cancer that starts in the lungs. Cancer is a disease where cancerous cells grow out of control, taking over normal cells and organs in the body.
Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women.An estimated 173,700 new cases of lung cancer and an estimated 160,440 deaths from lung cancer will occur in the United States during 2004.
Causes of Lung Cancer
Smoking and Secondhand Smoke
Cigarette smoking causes lung cancer. In fact, smoking tobacco is the major risk factor for lung cancer. In the United States, about 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in women are due to smoking.
Some rare types of lung cancer are not related to smoking. Other causes include exposure to certain chemicals and substances, such as asbestos, uranium, chromium and nickel. These have all been linked to lung cancer but are very rare. Contact your local environmental health officer if you’re concerned.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
People often decide to visit the doctor only after they have been bothered by certain complaints over a period of time. Individuals who have lung cancer frequently experience symptoms such as the following:
Up to one-fourth of all people with lung cancer may have no symptoms when the cancer is diagnosed.The symptoms are due to direct effects of the primary tumor, to effects of metastatic tumors in other parts of the body, or to disturbances of hormones, blood, or other systems caused by the cancer.
Less common symptoms can include: swelling of the face or neck, pain under your ribs (right hand side), a hoarse voice, and trouble swallowing.
Coughing up blood (hemoptysis) occurs in a significant number of people who have lung cancer. Any amount of coughed-up blood should cause alarm.
Treatment of Lung Cancer
An individual then has a better idea of the value of different forms of therapy. Other factors that are taken into account include the person’s general health, medical problems that may affect treatment (such as chemotherapy), and tumor characteristics.
In some cases you may choose not to undergo treatment. For instance, you may feel that the side effects of treatment will outweigh the potential benefits. When that’s the case, your doctor may suggest comfort (palliative) care to treat only the symptoms the cancer is causing, such as pain.
Once lung cancer is detected, a treatment plan is developed based on the patient’s physical health, whether the lung cancer is small cell or non-small cell and how extensively the cancer has spread. (See “Stages of Lung Cancer.”) Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of two or more of these therapies.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Chemotherapy and radiation may lead to a cure in a small number of patients. These therapies result in shrinking of the tumor and are known to prolong life for extended periods in most patients.
Chemotherapy and radiation are very effective at relieving symptoms.
Follow-up care helps you and your health care team monitor your progress and your recovery from treatment. At first, your follow-up care may be managed by one of the specialists from your health care team. Later on it may be managed by your family doctor. The schedule of follow-up visits is different for each person. You might see your doctor more often in the first year after treatment, and less often after that.