Facts About Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is an often silent and deadly killer. It is the number one disease killing Americans. And more people die from this type of cancer than any other kind of cancer; breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and melanoma, combined. So far, this year, there are already 215 thousand new cases. One of the big problems with this disease is that in most cases it is not diagnosed at their earliest, most curable stage. Most people are diagnosed so late that it’s of no help to the patient, who often dies from it within a year.
The Lung Cancer Alliance tells us that it begins in the tissues of the lungs, most usually in the cells lining or the air passages and that the two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.
There are several factors believed to lead to this type of cancer:
1. Increasing age – it doesn’t strike as frequently in people under age 40. The numbers are slightly higher after age 45, then there is a larger jump in people over the age of 65.
2. Smoking – the most important risk factor in the development of lung cancer. Cigarettes expose the body to more than 4-thousand different dangerous chemicals. The Centers for Disease Control says that about 85-percent of all lung cancers in the U.S. are in people who currently smoke or who have smoked in the past. They note that even if you have quit smoking, the risk does not decrease the longer ago you quit and it never returns to zero.
3. Extended exposure to second-hand or passive smoke – the CDC reports that there are over 3-thousand lung cancer deaths a year attributable to second-hand smoke.
4. Exposure to radon – an invisible, tasteless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in earth and rocks. This is the second leading cause in the United States.
5. Environmental carcinogens – including arsenic, asbestos, uranium, and diesel fuel.
6. Radiation therapy to the chest – if you have too many chest X-rays when you have a cough or are sick, they can add up.
7. Previous lung diseases like emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or tuberculosis can leave scars on the lungs.
8. Genetics or a family history of lung cancer – new U.S. research reveals that adults who are biologically related to someone who had lung cancer, especially if it was diagnosed before age 50, have an increased risk.
In its early stages, lung cancer has no symptoms. But the signs to watch for include a chronic cough, hoarseness, coughing up blood, weight loss and/or loss of appetite, shortness of breath, a high fever with no known reason, wheezing, repeated episodes of bronchitis or pneumonia, and chest pain.
Among the current approved treatments for lung cancer are Surgery, if used in the early stages of the tumor, it can be taken out, Radiation therapy, a form of high energy X-rays that kills the cancer cells, and Chemotherapy or drugs effective against cancer cells, injected directly into a vein, or taken by pill.