Lung Cancer- Understanding And Treatment
Lung cancer is fairly common in India, which goes to show that it is dangerous if not addressed in a timely and effective manner. Knowing more about lung cancer, the symptoms, treatment and preventive measures helps create more awareness in you and your family.
What is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is a malignant tumour affecting one or both lungs; usually in the cells that line the air passages. It is characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung.
Why lung cancer is a threat?
Lung cancer is among the most common cancers and cause of cancer related deaths globally. It accounts for 13% of all new cancer cases and 19% of cancer related deaths worldwide.
The overall 5-year survival rate of lung cancer is discouraging with roughly 15% per cent in developed countries and 5% in developing countries.
In India, lung cancer constitutes 6.9% of all new cancer cases and 9.3% of all cancer related deaths in both sexes. It is the mostcommon cancer and cause of cancer related mortality in men.
How is lung cancer caused?
Lung cancer has a strong association with cigarettesmoking, with about 90% of lung cancers linked to tobacco use. Risk of lung cancer increases considerably with the number of cigarettes smoked over time. Statistics reveal that among those who smoke two or more packs of cigarettes a day, one in seven will eventually die of lung cancer.
Non-smokers do not have it any easier. Exposure to second hand smoke can also trigger lung cancer so even if you don’t smoke, spending time around smokers can be a problem.
Equally dangerous is exposure to radon, air pollution, among other factors.
Workplace exposures to asbestos, diesel exhaust or certain other chemicals can also trigger lung cancers.
What are its symptoms?
Symptoms of lung cancer can be evident in the course of a routine physical examination.
The doctor may suspect a case of lung cancer if the routine test reveals
Certain lung cancers produce abnormally high blood levels of certain substances or hormones, such as calcium. If the test shows such evidence and no other cause is apparent, it may point to lung cancer.
Once a malignant tumour begins to cause symptoms, it is usually visible on an X-ray. At times a tumour that has not yet begun to cause symptoms is seen on a chest X-ray taken for another purpose. A CT scan of the chest may be ordered for a more detailed look.
How is lung cancer treated?
If the cancer can be successfully removed surgically, the patient has a good chance of surviving at least one year and usually a better than 50% chance of living for at least five years. The challenge comes in detecting lung cancer early enough to make surgery possible.
This is an option depending on the type of lung cancer and how far it has spread as also the patient's overall health, particularly the lungs. Often surgery cannot be undertaken for smokers with lung cancer due to existing lung or heart complications.In other cases, combining surgery with chemotherapy afterwards has superior survival rates.
Radiation therapy comes in to play to kill remaining cancer cells. It is usually delayed for at least a month to allowthe surgical wound to heal.
Small-cell lung cancer can spread easily. It is usually treated with combination chemotherapy -- the use of more than one drug -- often along with radiation therapy. At times surgery is also used, but only if the cancer is thought to be at an early stage.
If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body (i.e. metastasized) it is usually treated with either chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The cancer at this stage is very difficult to cure so the primary objective of the treatment is to provide comfort and prolong life.
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