Lung Cancer: Can lung cancer be treated? What is the life expectancy after this deadly disease? Can early diagnosis save you from this fatal disease?
What is lung cancer? Lung cancer can be described as a type of cancer that tends to begin in the lungs, and the cells in the lungs divide uncontrollably. Tumours may form owing to the overgrowth of the cells. Did you know? Lung cancer is divided into two types, that is a small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell cancer is commonly seen in people with a history of heavy smoking. Non-small cell lung cancer, it is an umbrella term for all other lung cancers including squamous cell, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma. Being the most typical cancer, lung cancer also causes the highest mortality and morbidity worldwide. According to the CDC, smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers. At the same time, if you reduce or stop smoking, then it also reduces your risk of lung cancer. Besides, if someone in your family history had cancer, it can happen to you as well. Do you know lung cancer is considered one of the biggest causes of death worldwide? According to experts, lung cancer eliminates the sufferer gradually, hence it is also known as 'silent killer'. It becomes challenging to detect it in the initial stages, due to which cancer reaches a severe condition. But if lung cancer is caught in the initial phase, then the victim can be cured.
Lung cancer: Here are some unknown signs and symptoms
Do you know that seventy-five per cent of lung cancer cases occur in the advanced stage? Hence, the symptoms one may exhibit are:
- Constant coughing
- Hemoptysis (blood in cough)
- Excessive cough breathing difficulties
- Chest infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- wheezing, unintentional weight loss
- Headache and hoarseness of the voice
- Even bone pain is one of the signs that will draw your attention and may demand quick evaluation.
One must be periodically examined to be aware to catch lung cancer. Once, you notice these symptoms, and then it is imperative to consult the expert and seek immediate medical attention. So, be vigilant.
Here are the different types of lung cancer
Lung cancer is classified into two types, mainly small cell lung cancers (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) after examining the appearance of one’s tumour cells. The growth of these two types of cancer is different.
- Small cell lung cancers (SCLC): It is fast-growing lung cancer caused by smoking. This form of lung cancer usually starts in the bronchi and proliferates throughout the body.
- Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC): It is one of the two major types of lung cancer that can affect both non-smokers and smokers.
- Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs): It is a condition where the neuroendocrine cells develop into tumours. NETs or neuroendocrine tumour may spread to other parts of the body and grow aggressively or slowly. It can be termed as a rare tumour which is generally mistaken for bronchial asthma and treated with surgery.
Once the specialist diagnoses the type of cancer, you will need to take treatment, as suggested by the doctor.
Here are some unknown causes of lung cancer
- Smoking: Lung cancer can happen to anyone, but smoking has been seen as a major cause of 90% of lung cancer cases. Smoking causes damage to your lung tissue. Reasons can be attributed to smoking in the majority of cases but those who don’t smoke also suffer from it usually non-small cell and neuroendocrine cancer. When you stop smoking, it also reduces the risk of lung cancer.
- Air pollution: Another cause of lung cancer is air pollution. The pollutants and particulate matter present in the air can surely give a tough time to your lungs. Thus, after determining the causes, one will have to take treatment as prescribed by the doctor. Be careful, and alert.
Lung Cancer Risk Factors
Here are a few of the risk factors for lung cancer:
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
- Working in the chemical industry and inhaling them regularly
- Having a family history of lung cancer, if one has taken radiation therapy previously.
Lung cancer: Can early diagnosis save you from this fatal disease?
Early detection of lung cancer can help reduce mortality and morbidity. Your doctor will ask you to opt for a:
- chest x-ray
- CT scan
- biopsy of the chest
- bronchoscopy to locate cancer
Furthermore, if you are one of them who smokes regularly, are exposed to second-hand smoke or air pollution or even have a family history of lung cancer then you must make sure that you go for regular check-up or screening for lung cancer with low dose CT scan. That will help you to spot abnormalities in the lungs, and take prompt treatment. See to it that you do not delay your further treatment.
Learn everything about the stages of lung cancer
As told by the doctor, lung cancer has four stages, each stage:
- Stage 1 Lung cancer: For general understanding, stage 1 is lung cancer where cancer is localised to a part of the lung and haven’t spread.
- State 2 lung cancer: Stage 2 lung cancer will be located in the lungs and lymph nodes that are present near the lungs.
- Stage 3 lung cancer: If you are diagnosed with three lung cancer, then it can be worrisome as cancer will be present in the lungs and lymph nodes in the middle of your chest.
- Stage 4 lung cancer: Speaking about stage 4, it is a no brainer that the cancer is deadly and can spread to both of your lungs and other organs around the lungs.
After detecting the stage of cancer, the doctor will come up with a treatment plan based on the size and location of the tumour. Here, the motto will be of improving the quality of life of an individual.
Can lung cancer be treated? Here are the following treatments
Once lung cancer is detected, then your doctor may suggest you do a few scans for staging the disease.
- In early-stage: The doctor will advise for surgery. Here, the expert will remove the lung tissue that has become cancerous, and you might be suggested to undergo chemotherapy.
- In advance stages: Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the primary modalities of treatment. You can also speak to your doctor about targeted therapy. For this, an expert will take help of drugs to limit the growth of the cancer cells and will not allow them to multiply.
- Immunotherapy: It can be given to fight cancer with the use of the immune system. Avoid taking medications on your own as doing so can worsen your condition.
What is the life expectancy after lung cancer?
Once you are diagnosed with lung cancer, there will be lingering fear or stress owing to low recovery rates. Though lung cancer can be severe, it will be essential for you to take immediate treatment and improve your survival rates. Remember that early detection can save your life and reduce morbidity and mortality. As most of the lung cancer patients are detected in the late stage, the life expectancy is less but now with targeted therapy and immunotherapy that is also changing. You must speak to your doctor and get a proper understanding regarding it. Ignoring any symptoms of lung cancer can cost you your life.
(With inputs from Dr Sanket Shah, Surgical Oncologist, Apollo Spectra hospital Mumbai)
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