Lung cancer is a malignant tumor that develops from lung or bronchial tissue, with subsequent metastasis. In the absence of timely diagnosis and treatment, it inevitably leads to the death of the patient.
The main symptoms of the disease include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, hemoptysis, weight loss. The identification of most of these signs should alert the patient and make him/her visit a doctor immediately. It should be noted that the signs are nonspecific and the cancer is dangerous precisely because many symptoms are characteristic of most respiratory diseases. Therefore, patients are often in no hurry to sound the alarm.
It is necessary to pay attention to such indirect signs as lethargy, apathy, loss of proper activity, a slight causeless increase in body temperature. The latter can mask an environmental disease under sluggish bronchitis or pneumonia. In addition to the listed symptoms, it may also indicate the presence of laboratory-clinical paraneoplastic syndrome. Its manifestations are hypercalcemia (with squamous cell carcinoma), hyponatremia (with small cell carcinoma), etc. Treatment of the underlying disease eliminates paraneoplastic syndrome. However, in 15% of cases in the initial stages, lung cancer does not show symptoms, and the disease can be detected only by examination. Typically, such an examination is an annual x-ray of the chest organs.
You should consult a doctor urgently if you observe at least one of the following symptoms:
- cough, which has a long, lasting character;
- chest pain, which intensifies if you take a deep breath;
- voice change (hoarseness);
- lack of appetite and weight loss;
- protracted pulmonary diseases (bronchitis, pneumonia), repeated disease in a short period of time.
Progression of lung cancer (metastases) can cause:
- bone pain;
- weakness in the limbs;
- neurological symptoms (e.g., dizziness);
- yellowness on the face and eyes.
Types of lung cancer
The disease has the following types:
- Central lung cancer is often a small cell or squamous neoplasm. With this type of cancer, treatment is affected by the prevalence rate of cancer and the general condition of the patient;
- Peripheral lung cancer. Symptoms of this type of pulmonary oncology develop later than with central cancer. In this case, a malignant formation is not formed quickly, it grows for a long time. Sometimes this type of lung cancer is diagnosed when the tumor becomes already large;
- Pleural mesothelioma. This type of disease is rarely diagnosed. The pathological process develops in the pleural membranes. With this type of cancer, treatment is performed using all modern oncology techniques. Mesothelioma is an aggressive tumor that is important to diagnose as early as possible.
A diagnostic search for suspected lung cancer includes the following additional research methods:
- Clinical blood test, detecting leukocytosis, accelerated ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate), anemia (reduced red blood cell and hemoglobin levels);
- X-ray examination to detect darkening, areas of lung collapse;
- Bronchoscopy, revealing the infiltration of the bronchial wall, a tumor that protrudes into the lumen of the bronchus;
- Sputum cytology for cancer cells.
The final diagnosis can be made only after morphological examination.
Causes of the disease
The main predisposing factors that provoke lung cancer include:
- Chronic lung diseases of inflammatory origin (bronchiectasis, chronic bronchitis, pneumosclerosis, etc.);
- Smoking, which significantly increases the risk of lung cancer;
- Exposure to ionizing radiation;
- Work in hazardous industries, especially asbestos.
The main risk factor for lung cancer is the inhalation of carcinogens. About 90% of all cases of the disease are associated with smoking, namely the action of carcinogens contained in tobacco smoke. The longer a person smokes and the more packs of cigarettes a day, the higher the risk.
Quitting smoking is the most effective way to reduce the likelihood of illness, regardless of age. People who do not smoke on their own but inhale tobacco smoke (second-hand smoke) are also at risk of developing the disease. If there is one smoker in the married couple, then the probability of getting the disease is increased by 30% for the second one compared with the pair where both partners do not smoke. The negative effect of tobacco smoke can be aggravated by the lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet.
Smoking is the main cause of the disease but not the only one. The probability of getting sick is most directly related to air pollution. For example, people living in industrial areas with mining and processing industries get sick 3-4 times more often than those living in rural areas.
There are also other risk factors:
- contact with asbestos, radon, arsenic, nickel, cadmium, chromium, chloromethyl ether;
- radiation exposure;
- chronic lung diseases: pneumonia, bronchitis, bronchiectasis, tuberculosis.
Gender also matters. Smoking women are more likely to suffer from this cancer.
Treatment of patients with lung cancer includes many methods: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, drug treatment (Methotrexate) and their various combinations (combined method). The choice of a particular method depends on many factors: cancer stage, the condition of the patient, etc.
The surgical method is used for non-small cell forms of oncology. The important factors are the size of the tumor, the patient’s age and some other factors. During surgery, the tumor is usually removed with part of the lung or the lung is removed completely. If necessary, the regional lymph nodes are also removed. The outcome of the operation depends on where the tumor is located, its size and the presence of metastases, the age of the patient.
Radiation therapy is the second most effective treatment method. Radiation therapy is a method of treating tumor diseases using ionizing radiation;
Chemotherapy is a method based on the introduction of drugs into the patient’s body that can selectively inhibit the growth of cancer cells without significant damage to healthy tissues and organs of the patient.
The methods of treatment vary depending on the location of the tumor, its histological type, stage of development and general condition of the patient. In the early stages of non-small cell cancer, the surgical removal of the tumor is the most effective. However, surgical intervention is carried out only if the general condition of the patient allows such a complex operation.
At later stages of the disease, surgical treatment is usually ineffective. In such cases, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used. A complex treatment may be performed, including a combination of all the above methods.
The lack of timely diagnosis and treatment leads to the following complications:
- Cancer cachexia;
- Fatal outcome on the background of multiple organ failure.
Prevention of oncological pathology, like any other disease, significantly reduces the chances of its development or, at least, allows increasing the effect of subsequent treatment.
Prevention of lung cancer includes the following activities:
- Quitting smoking. This addiction negatively affects the entire human body, but the respiratory system suffers the most (in particular the lungs). You’d better not start smoking at all, but if a person already smokes, you should try to help him/her quit this addiction. You also need to try not to be near the smoker because passive smoking can also provoke the disease;
- Elimination of risk factors. If your work or lifestyle is associated with systematic contact with carcinogens, you should try to minimize their impact on your body.
It is important to remember that early diagnosis is a real chance for a full recovery.
Medicine does not stand still and every year there appear more and more new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating neoplasms, including malignant lung tumors. There are promising developments for early diagnosis, as well as methods for determining the genetic predisposition to cancer. Innovative medicines, techniques, the latest approaches to understanding the nature of oncology and ways to combat it give hope that in the future this deadly disease will be treated in 100% of cases. In the meantime, only preventive measures, systematic examinations and timely therapy can save a person’s life.