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Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the leading cancers affecting the population of India and usually originates in the airway passages of the respiratory tract. It can also begin in other parts of the lung such as the cells in the bronchioles and alveoli.

In 2010, an estimated 5.56 lakh died of cancer in India. Among these deaths, approximately 11.4% were men diagnosed with lung cancer.

The most common types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Although highly uncommon, both cell types can simultaneously be affected with cancer. Approximately 85-90% of lung cancers are diagnosed as NSCLC.

Some of the risk factors for Lung Cancer include;

  • Tobacco smoke: Tobacco smoke is the leading cause of lung cancer. Smoke from cigarettes, pipes, or cigars release harmful substances that can damage lung cells when inhaled. The more a person is exposed to smoke, the greater the likelihood of developing lung cancer.
  • Radon: Radon is a radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell or taste. It forms in soil and rocks. People that work in mines may be exposed to radon. Extended exposure to radon can damage lung cells.
  • Asbestos and other substances: Exposure to asbestos, arsenic, chromium, nickel, soot, tar, and other substances can cause lung cancer. The risk is highest for those with years of exposure.
  • Air pollution
  • Family history
  • Personal history of lung cancer
  • Older Age

Common Symptoms and Signs that Lung Cancer may be present;

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
  • New onset of wheezing
  • Horner syndrome
  • Superior vena cava syndrome
  • Paraneoplastic syndromes

Diagnosis of Lung Cancer

Although symptoms may suggest that cancer is present, the use of diagnostic imaging can help confirm whether the cancer really exists. The following are imaging tests that may be conducted in diagnosing lung cancer:

  • Chest x-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Bone scan

Treatment Options for Lung Cancer

Treatment options may consist of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, other localized therapies or any combination of these treatments.

  • Surgery may consist of a pneumonectomy, lobectomy, or segmentectomy where all or part of the lung is removed. In some instances, the nearby lymph nodes may be removed for observation also.
  • Chemotherapy is a systemic therapy that uses anti-cancer drugs to kill or stop the growth of cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy consists of external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy.
  • External beam is a treatment option that uses localized high energy radiation beams to eliminate cancer cells and keep them from growing.
  • Brachytherapy uses a radioactive substance, usually in the form of seeds which are placed directly into or near the cancer which helps to shrink the tumor.
  • Other therapies can include radiofrequency ablation, photodynamic therapy, laser therapy, and stent placement.