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Understanding Lung Cancer

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 8, 2021 5:09:25 PM / by Calvin Leong

Lung-Cancer-

 

Lung cancer is an abnormal growth of cancerous cells that forms a mass (malignant tumour) in a lung. There are several types of lung cancer. The types are based on the appearance of the tumour cells. The two most common types are:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer. This type of lung cancer is the most common type. Non-small cell lung cancers include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.
  • Small cell lung cancer. In this type of lung cancer, abnormal cells are smaller than those of non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer gets worse (progresses) faster than non-small cell lung cancer.


72dpi_smoking-706717-edited

What are the causes?

The most common cause of lung cancer is smoking tobacco. The second most common cause is exposure to a chemical called radon.

What increases the risk?

You are more likely to develop this condition if:

  • You smoke tobacco.
  • You have been exposed to:
  • You have a family or personal history of lung cancer.
  • You have had lung radiation therapy in the past.
  • You are older than age 65.

What are the signs or symptoms?

In the early stages, you may not have any symptoms. As the cancer progresses, symptoms may include:

  • A lasting cough, possibly with blood.
  • Fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loud breathing (wheezing).
  • Chest pain.
  • Loss of appetite.

Symptoms of advanced lung cancer include:

  • Hoarseness of voice.
  • Bone or joint pain.
  • Weakness.
  • Change in the structure of the fingernails (clubbing), so that the nail looks like an upside-down spoon.
  • Swelling of the face or arms.
  • Inability to move the face (paralysis).
  • Drooping eyelids.

Male doctor looking an x-ray  with a patient

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on:

  • Your symptoms and medical history.
  • A physical exam.
  • A chest X-ray.
  • A CT scan.
  • Blood tests.
  • Sputum tests.
  • Removal of a sample of lung tissue (lung biopsy) for testing.

Your cancer will be assessed (staged) to determine how severe it is and how much it has spread (metastasised).

 

Young woman lying in hospital having intravenous therapy

How is this treated?

Treatment depends on the type and stage of your cancer. Treatment may include one or more of the following:

  • Surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Lymph nodes in the area may be removed and tested for cancer as well.
  • Medicines that kill cancer cells (chemotherapy).
  • High-energy rays that kill cancer cells (radiation therapy).
  • Targeted therapy. This targets specific parts of cancer cells and the area around them to block the growth and spread of the cancer. Targeted therapy can help limit the damage to healthy cells.

Follow these instructions at home:

Eating and drinking

  • Some of your treatments might affect your appetite. If you are having problems eating, or if you do not have an appetite, meet with a dietitian.
  • If you have side effects that affect your appetite, it may help to:
    • Eat smaller meals and snacks often.
    • Drink high-nutrition and high-calorie shakes or supplements.
    • Eat bland and soft foods that are easy to eat.
    • Avoid eating foods that are hot, spicy, or hard to swallow.

 

General instructions 

  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your healthcare provider.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • If you are admitted to the hospital, make sure your cancer specialist (oncologist) is aware. Your cancer may affect your treatment for other conditions.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your healthcare provider.
  • Consider joining a support group for people who have been diagnosed with lung cancer.
  • Work with your healthcare provider to manage any side effects of treatment.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your healthcare provider. This is important.

Contact a healthcare provider if you:

  • Lose weight without trying.
  • Have a persistent cough and wheezing.
  • Feel short of breath.
  • Get tired easily.
  • Have bone or joint pain.
  • Have difficulty swallowing.
  • Notice that your voice is changing or getting hoarse.
  • Have pain that does not get better with medicine.

Get help right away if you:

  • Cough up blood.
  • Have new breathing problems.
  • Have chest pain.
  • Have a fever.
  • Have swelling in an ankle, leg, or arm, or the face or neck.
  • Have paralysis in your face.
  • Are very confused.
  • Have a drooping eyelid.

Summary

  • Lung cancer is an abnormal growth of cancerous cells that forms a mass (malignant tumour) in a lung.
  • There are several types of lung cancer. The types are based on the appearance of the tumour cells. The two most common types are non-small cell and small cell.
  • The most common cause of lung cancer is smoking tobacco.
  • Early symptoms include a lasting cough, possibly with blood, and fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and shortness of breath.
  • After diagnosis, treatment depends on the type and stage of your cancer.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your healthcare provider.

 

References:

De Koning H, Van Der Aalst C, Ten Haaf K, Oudkerk M: PL02.05 effects of volume CT lung cancer screening: mortality results of the NELSON randomised-controlled population based trial. J Thorac Oncol 2018; 13: pp. S185.

 Pinsky PF, Zhu CS, Kramer BS: Lung cancer risk by years since quitting in 30+ pack year smokers. J Med Screen 2015; 22: pp. 151-157.

Raaschou-Nielsen O., Beelen R., Wang M., et. al.: Particulate matter air pollution components and risk for lung cancer. Environ Int 2016; 87: pp. 66-73.

Sacher AG, Dahlberg SE, Heng J, Mach S, Janne PA, Oxnard GR: Association between younger age and targetable genomic alterations and prognosis in non-small-cell lung cancer. JAMA Oncol 2016; 2: pp. 313-320.

World Health Organization. Cancer. Available at: http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer Accessed 24 November, 2020

 Yang P, Wang Y, Wampfler JA, et. al.: Trends in subpopulations at high risk for lung cancer. J Thorac Oncol 2016; 11: pp. 194-202.

 

For more information on lung cancer, visit:

Singapore Cancer Society

Health Hub: Lung Cancer

Health Hub: Cancer Support Groups

 

Updated on 8 March 2021 by CaregiverAsia.

 

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Topics: Wellness

Calvin Leong

Written by Calvin Leong

Calvin Leong holds a Master in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom. He has 15 years of clinical and lecturing experience focusing on Traumatology, Medical Sciences and Mentoring in Healthcare. Calvin is also a Train the Trainer certified by HRDF, Malaysia and a Life Member of The Malaysian Association for the Study of Pain (MASP). In his free time, he enjoys coffee with a slice of cheesecake.

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