Lung cancer, both small-cell and non-small-cell, is the second most common type. Cancer of the prostate is more common in men, while cancer of the breast is more common in women. Most people with lung cancer are over the age of 65 and only a small number are younger than 45. People are diagnosed, on average, when they are 70 years old.
Lung cancer kills almost a quarter of all people who die from cancer. It is by far the most common type of cancer-related death. Each year, more people die from lung cancer than from colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
In this article, let’s review lung cancer and its signs and symptoms, as well as some of the common treatments available for this disease.
What is Lung Cancer?
Your lungs are two soft organs in your chest. When you breathe in, they take in oxygen and let out carbon dioxide when you breathe out.
People who smoke are more likely to get lung cancer, but people who have never smoked can also get it. The chances of getting lung cancer goes up the longer and more often you smoke. Even if you have smoked for a long time, quitting can make it much less likely that you will get lung cancer in the future.
On the bright side, the number of new cases of lung cancer keeps going down. This is partly because people are giving up smoking. The number of people who die from lung cancer also keeps going down because people are giving up smoking and early detection and treatment methods are getting better.
Non-Small Cell Cancer
The first major type of lung cancer can happen to people who have never smoked or to people who have. About 80% to 85% of lung cancers are NSCLC. The most common types of NSCLC are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Even though these subtypes start in different kinds of lung cells, they are often treated the same way and have the same results.
- Adenocarcinoma – Adenocarcinomas start in cells that normally make mucus or other substances. This type of lung cancer is more likely to happen to people who smoke or have smoked in the past, but it is also the most common type of lung cancer in people who don’t smoke.
Younger people are more likely to get it, and women are more likely to get it than men. Most cases of adenocarcinoma happen in the outer parts of the lung, and it is more likely to be found early before it has spread
- Squamous cell carcinoma – Squamous cell carcinomas start in squamous cells, which are flat cells that line the inside of the airways in the lungs. Most of the time, they are caused by a history of smoking, and they are usually found in the middle of the lungs, close to the bronchus, which is the main airway
- Large cell carcinoma – Also called “undifferentiated carcinoma,” this can happen in any part of the lung. It spreads quickly and grows quickly, which can make it harder to treat. A subtype of large-cell carcinoma called large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma grows quickly and looks a lot like small-cell lung cancer
Other tumors can grow in the lungs in addition to the main types of lung cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?
When lung cancer is in its early stages, there are usually no signs or symptoms. Most symptoms and signs of lung cancer show up when the disease is already more advanced.
Some common symptoms and signs of lung cancer are:
- A new cough that doesn’t go away
- Coughing up blood, even a small amount
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Losing weight for seemingly no reason
- Bone pain
Common Treatments for Lung Cancer
You and your doctor decide on a cancer treatment plan based on things like your overall health, the type and stage of your cancer, and your preferences.
Sometimes, you might decide not to get treatment. For example, you may think that the treatment’s side effects will be worse than its possible benefits. When this happens, your doctor may suggest comfort care, which only treats the symptoms of cancer, like pain or shortness of breath.
Below are the most common treatment options for lung cancer. Keep in mind that these treatments are all for different stages of the disease, as well as location, and how you are experiencing the disease.
- Surgery – During surgery, your doctor will try to get rid of the lung cancer and some healthy tissue around it. Some ways to get rid of lung cancer are:
- Wedge resection
- Segmental resection
- Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by sending them powerful beams of energy from sources like X-rays and protons
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. You can get one or more chemo drugs through a vein in your arm or by mouth. Most of the time, a combination of drugs is given for weeks or months, with breaks in between so that the body can heal
- Stereotactic body radiotherapy – Stereotactic body radiotherapy, which is also called “radiosurgery,” is a very powerful radiation treatment that sends many beams of radiation at cancer from different directions
- Targeted drug therapy – Targeted drug treatments are based on the fact that cancer cells have certain abnormalities. By stopping these from happening, targeted drug treatments can kill cancer cells
- Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy is a way to fight cancer by using your immune system. Your immune system, which fights diseases, might not be able to attack your cancer because the cancer cells make proteins that help them hide from immune system cells. Immunotherapy works by stopping this from happening
- Palliative care – People with lung cancer often have signs and symptoms of cancer as well as side effects of treatment. Supportive care, also called palliative care, is a field of medicine that involves working with a doctor to reduce your signs and symptoms
Are you or someone you love concerned about your risk of lung cancer? Here at Clearview Cancer Institute, our specialists are experts in cancer diagnosis, treatment, and care. Give us a call at (888)374-1015 to schedule an appointment and possible screenings.