Lung Cancer

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung Cancer is a type of cancer affecting the lungs. It is considered to be the number one leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. It is well-known that smoking increases a person’s risk of getting lung cancer significantly. If a person is able to quit smoking, even after smoking for many years, they can reduce their chances of getting Lung Cancer.

People who may have been exposed to harmful air over a length period of time are also at high risk of getting Lung Cancer. Certain work environments where there is a heavy presence of chemicals can contribute to development of Lung Cancer, whether the person was a smoker or not.

What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Lung Cancer symptoms may not show themselves easily. It can go undetected for some time.

Symptoms include

  • Coughing up blood
  • Coughing up bloody phlegm and mucous
  • A constant and sometimes painful cough, (smoker’s cough)
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Chest pains and wheezing
  • Difficulty speaking and hoarseness in the voice
  • Body pains
  • Headaches

Lung Cancer Causes

Cigarette smoking is the largest cause of lung cancer, being responsible for 85% of all cases. Cigarettes contain over 70 chemicals that are known to cause cancer, and the risk of lung cancer for people who smoke is 15 to 30 times greater than people who have never smoked.

Passive smoking is also a common cause of lung cancer – non-smokers who live with a partner who smokes are 25% more likely to develop lung cancer than those who do not.

The risk of lung cancer from smoking or passive smoking is higher when people have a family history of lung cancer or if they take beta carotene supplements.

Exposure to radon, a naturally occurring gas, is the second most common cause of lung cancer. Radon can sometimes become trapped in buildings, increasing the risk of lung cancer for people who spend time in them.

Additionally, cancer patients who have had radiation therapy in the chest area are more likely to subsequently develop lung cancer.

How is Lung Cancer Treated?

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancerous cells. One or more chemotherapy drugs may be administered intravenously or taken orally. Chemotherapy is given in a series of treatments over a period of time, with recovery breaks in between. Chemotherapy is often used as a post-surgical procedure to kill any remaining cancerous cells. It can also be used before surgery to shrink cancers and make them easier to remove. In some cases, chemotherapy can be used to relieve pain and other symptoms of advanced cancer.

Radiation therapy can be used after surgery to kill any cancerous cells that may remain after chemotherapy and surgery. It may also be used as the first treatment for lung cancers that can’t be removed during surgery. For patients dealing with the advanced stages of lung cancer, radiation therapy can be used to relieve some symptoms. Those patients may be referred to palliative care which is a multidisciplinary approach to pain management in patients.

Some countries are offering targeted drug therapies in order to fight Lung Cancer. These drugs can target specific abnormalities identified in cells through testing. It is hoped that continued research in this area can result in more drug-related therapy for Lung Cancer patients.

Smokers who are trying to quit should see their healthcare provider immediately. Doctors are able to provide strategies and even prescriptions to help people stop smoking. If you are exposed to a potentially hazardous work environment with air quality issues, hopefully these concerns can be raised with your employer or local department of labor.

Lung Cancer Prevention

The most effective preventive measure against lung cancer is to avoid cigarettes and other tobacco products. If you smoke, and then quit, your risk of lung cancer will gradually reduce although it will still be higher than people who have never smoked.

Avoiding exposure to radon will also reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. Reliable tests exist that auditors can use to test buildings for radon levels.

There are several other substances that are known to cause lung cancer and that are commonly encountered in certain workplace professions. These include arsenic, asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, soot, and tar. Avoiding exposure to these substances will reduce the risk of lung cancer.

Some evidence suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and regular physical exercise may reduce the risk of lung cancer. However, this has not been conclusively established.