I’m Worried About Lung Cancer
What is lung cancer ?
The most basic unit in our body is the cell. Normally, cells divide to produce new cells only when needed. When cell growth results in an uncontrolled division and proliferation of cells, eventually a mass known as a tumor forms. When this happens in the lung, it causes lung cancer.
What causes lung cancer ?
Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer. About 90% of lung cancers arise as a result of tobacco use. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked over time.
Other causes include passive smoking, family history, a past history of lung cancer , other lung diseases and asbestos exposure.
What are the signs and symptoms of lung cancer ?
In up to 25% of people who get lung cancer, they have no symptoms. The cancer is first discovered on a routine chest x-ray or CT scan as a solitary small mass.
The growth of the cancer and invasion of lung tissues and surroundings may interfere with breathing, leading to symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, and coughing up blood (hemoptysis).
Sometimes, if the lung cancer that has spread to the bones it may produce excruciating pain at the sites of bone involvement. Cancer that has spread to the brain may cause a number of symptoms that may include blurred vision, headaches, seizures, or weakness or loss of sensation in parts of the body.
Non-specific symptoms seen with many cancers including lung cancers include weight loss, weakness, and fatigue.
When should one see a doctor?
One should see a doctor if they develop the symptoms associated with lung cancer, in particular, if they have:
A new persistent cough or worsening of an existing chronic cough
Blood in the sputum
Persistent bronchitis or repeated respiratory infections
Unexplained weight loss and/or fatigue
Breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath or wheezing
How is lung cancer diagnosed ?
A doctor can talk to, and examine a patient . This may reveal the presence of symptoms or signs that are suspicious for lung cancer. In addition to asking about symptoms and risk factors for cancer development, doctors may detect signs of breathing difficulties, airway obstruction, or infections in the lungs.
The chest x-ray is the most common first diagnostic step when any new symptoms of lung cancer are present.
A CT scan may be performed on the chest, abdomen, and/or brain to examine for both the primary tumour, and to check if it has spread.
Other tests include bone scans, and brochoscopy ( a scope of the lungs).
How is lung cancer treated?
Treatment for lung cancer can involve surgical removal of tumor, chemotherapy or radiation , as well as combinations of these methods. The decision about which treatments will be appropriate must take into account the the location of the tumour and whether it has spread, as well as the overall health status of the patient.
How can lung cancer be prevented?
Smoking cessation is the most important measure that can prevent lung cancer. There are many products available, such as nicotine gum, nicotine sprays, or nicotine inhalers. Minimizing exposure to passive smoking is also an effective preventive measure.