What You Need to Know About Lung Cancer

With 14 percent of all new cancer cases being lung cancer, this is by far the leading cause of death among all forms of this terminal illness. According to the American Cancer Society, 154,050 people will die from this illness in a year. That is a higher amount of deaths than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined. Due to being such a rampant and lethal disease, it is crucial that you are able to spot the first indications of lung cancer and get the treatment that you require.

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What Are The Warning Signs?

Most of the symptoms experienced with lung cancer are not easily identifiable from the get-go. Rather, they grow more prominent as the disease spreads throughout the lungs. Here are just some of the first indications of lung cancer:

  1. Chest pain that agitates you when laughing, coughing, or taking deep breaths
  2. Constant coughing
  3. Wheezing
  4. Having a short breath
  5. No appetite
  6. Frequently contracting illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia
  7. Coughing up blood
  8. Low fatigue/sleepiness

As the disease worsens in severity, lung cancer can start affecting other areas of the body, causing symptoms to develop in those areas as well. Just some of these symptoms may include:

  1. Changes to the nervous system, such as seizures or poor balance
  2. Jaundice
  3. Bone pain
  4. Lumps near the skin’s surface

How to Diagnose Lung Cancer

Contrary to popular belief, imaging tests, not blood tests, are used to determine if there are any growths present in the body. This is then followed up by lab tests that locate the presence of cancer cells and confirm the official diagnosis.

Just some of the imaging tests that are used are:

  • X-ray: this will help to locate unusual masses in the lungs
  • CT Scan: a more detailed method than x-rays, this scan can detect enlarged lymph nodes
  • Low-Dose CT: this CT Scan involves a low dose of radiation and takes a high-resolution image that will help detect any tumors at an early stage
  • MRI Scan: this method uses radio waves and strong magnets to detect if cancer has spread to the brain or the spinal cord
  • PET Scan: this involves injecting sugar into the blood. Because they grow quicker than normal cells, cancer cells will absorb more of the sugar and show up in the scan more prominently
  • Bone Scan: by injecting a low-level radioactive material into the bones, doctors can tell if cancer has spread to any of the bones
  • Bronchoscopy: this test checks for the presence of large tumors and blockages. This involves inserting a flexible tube down into the bronchi of the lungs.
 Photo by diego_cervo/Depositphotos 

Treatment for Lung Cancer

Like with most forms of cancer, lung cancer can be treated in numerous ways, with patients potentially receiving a combination of treatments depending on their circumstances. Such treatments include:

Surgery

Because surgery is so complex, a pulmonary functioning test is typically administered first so that it can be ensured that there will be enough healthy lung left behind to survive. The most popular form of surgery, in this case, would be lobotomy, whereby one of the lung’s lobes are removed. When a tumor is too close to the center of the chest, a pneumonectomy could be performed, which involves removing an entire lung.

Radiofrequency Ablation

This is a common treatment for small tumors on the outer edges of the lungs. High energy waves heat the tumor with the objective of destroying the cancerous cells and even removing the growth. Apart from some pain and tenderness, this treatment has almost no side effects.

Chemotherapy

This method involves taking special drugs either orally or intravenously. Chemotherapy is often used to either assist in surgical treatments or used together with radiation therapy. These specially administered drugs can make growths smaller and easier to handle during surgery or could be used to eliminate any traces of cancer that were not removed during surgery.

Immunotherapy

This type of therapy is used for a number of reasons, such as killing cancer cells, strengthening patients’ immune systems and limiting the symptoms caused by other treatments. This treatment is not as widely used as other treatments, as many patients do not respond to it. Also, this treatment has numerous side effects, such as constipation, nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

Targeted Therapies

These types of therapies involve administering drugs to target different issues. Some drugs, Avastin and cyramza, target angiogenesis, which is known as blood vessel growth. EGFR inhibitors are a type of drug that targets EGFR, a form of protein that is found on the surface of cancerous cells that help them grow at a quicker rate. 

In addition to the treatments mentioned above, new research is constantly being conducted to determine new lung cancer treatments. New clinical trials are happening all the time, so these might be worth considering. The most important thing is that, if you detect any warning signs of lung cancer, you seek medical attention as soon as possible. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the more treatment options will be available to you. 

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