Understanding lung cancer


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
Understanding lung cancer

Understanding lung cancer. It is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both the lungs. Such cells do not perform the regular normal functions and with the passage of time it grows and turns into a tumor. The presence of a tumor impedes the functioning of the lungs thus acting as an obstacle in supplying oxygen to the body. There are two main types of lung cancer: Non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

How common is lung cancer?
Cancer in the lungs is the next most diagnosed type of cancer after prostate cancer in males and breast cancer in females. An interesting point to note is that even though it is common in terms of diagnosis, it is the number one cause of cancer deaths each year. Lung cancer is often seen in older people as it takes years to develop. The average age of a person diagnosed with lung cancer is 71 years.

Causes of lung cancer.
Often it is believed that the major propellant of lung cancer is cigarette smoking, but there are other factors responsible for it. Exposure to asbestos, radon and other environmental factors along with second hand smoke or passive smoking can lead to the same problem. These are the external factors which lead to this type of cancer. There are also internal factors such as genetics. Remember, that the more often a person smokes, the greater the risk of developing this cancer.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer.
Various changes that may occur in the lung and the chest area are:

- Coughing becomes intense and persistent
- Pain is experienced in the chest, back and shoulder. This is generally different from the pain experienced during coughing.
- The color and the volume of the sputum changes.
- Shortness of breath
- The voice changes, becomes hoarse
- Harsh sounds are heard with each breath
- Coughing blood with consistent lung problems like bronchitis or pneumonia
- Loss of appetite, weight loss and the patient experiences constant fatigue
- Bone and joints pain, facial and swelling neck
- Bleeding

How is lung cancer diagnosed?
Detection at an early stage can make the cure easy. Therefore, regular checkups are recommended. People aged over 60, especially those with a history of smoking and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), should go for early detection screening tests. These include microscopic analysis of cells in sputum, bronchoscopy, CT scans and evaluation of the molecular markers in the sputum.

The diagnosis includes the following:

- Physical examination
- History of the patient
- Chest X-ray
- Biopsy

This post was complied with expert inputs from Dr. K K Pandey, Surgical Oncologist & HOD Oncology department at Rockland Hospital, New Delhi

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