If you are wondering what is the worst that could happen with all this pollution and smoke, you are in the right place to know more. Lung cancer is the most dangerous disease that a person can develop due to inhaling smoke or chemical and toxic pollutants. Lungs are two spongy organs that are the most vital for breathing and gas exchange. Having become the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, lung cancer is more common than you might have thought.
Fundamentally, our body schedules cells to destroy themselves after a certain stage to prevent overgrowth. However, cancer overrules this instruction and provokes cells to grow and multiply when they must not. Hence, the development of tumors begins. Lung cancer originates when the cells in lungs grow out of control. These overgrowing cells lessen a person’s ability to breathe. Compared to non-smokers, smokers have 50% more chances of acquiring this disease.
There are mainly two types of lung cancers, depending upon how they pop-up under a microscope.
- Small-Cell Lung Cancer: This lung cancer is less common, takes place exclusively in heavy smokers.
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: This can be defined as an umbrella term for several types of lung cancers. Non-small lung cancer involves squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
Reduce Your Risk:
Smokers and people who are exposed to smoke or toxic chemicals are at a higher risk to experience this condition.
- Quit smoking: The risk of lung cancer escalates with the span of time and number of cigarettes a person smokes.
- Say a big NO to secondhand smoke: Secondhand smoking is the second name of passive smoking. Nearly 73301 cases of lung cancer are reported due to secondhand smoking each year.
- Wear a suitable mask. Asbestos and other carcinogens are hazardous air pollutants present in tobacco smoke, building materials that may become a cause of lung cancer. Utmost sources of other toxic air pollutants are emissions from coal-fired power plants, refineries and industries together with cars, trucks and buses.
The staging of cancer demonstrates how far the disease has spread throughout the body and its severity. Each stage reveals important information like, the number and size of the tumors. Whether cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes or not, can also be detected in staging.
The lymphatic system includes lymph nodes, which has a link to the rest of the body. Sometimes, cancer can metastasize or spread further if it reaches these lymph nodes.
Mostly, doctors stage the cancer by the tumor size and the spread:
- Occult or hidden: No cancer is detected in the imaging scans, but cancerous cells might be hidden in the phlegm or mucus and might have spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage 0: Abnormal cells are found only in the top layers of cells lining the airways.
- Stage 1: A tumor has grown in the lungs, but is under 5 cm and has not extended to other body parts.
- Stage 2: Either the tumor has spread to the nearby lymph nodes and is under 5 cm or has spread to the surrounding tissues but not lymph nodes and is smaller than 7 cm.
- Stage 3: Cancer has reached to the lymph nodes and has extended to other parts of the lung and surrounding area.
- Stage 4: Distant body parts are infected by the cancer too, such as the bones or brain.
Signs and symptoms in lung cancer are hardly visible in its early stages, however, they are quite prominent at the advanced stages. Early symptoms might include:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Coughing up blood or phlegm
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness and fatigue
- People might suffer from recurrent respiratory infections like pneumonia or bronchitis.
Additional symptoms appear, if the cancer spreads, depending upon the location of the new tumor. For instance,
- If it spreads in the liver, it might lead to another disease i.e. jaundice or yellowing of skin.
- If in the brain or spine, headache, dizziness, balance issues or numbness in arms or legs.
- If in bones, it can develop other pains like back pain or hips pain.
Cancer can press on a large vein or facial nerves that transfer blood between the head, arms and heart, which may lead to swelling of the face, neck, upper chest and arms causing other problems such as Horner syndrome.
Treatment is done according to the cancer’s location and stage. Among others the most common treatments are surgery and radiation.
Surgery: Sometimes a lobe or large segment of the lung is removed, in order to remove cancerous tissues from lungs and surrounding area; the procedure is known as a lobectomy. In severe cases, the entire lung is removed; survival is possible without a lung but the person has to be in good health prior to the surgery.
Chemotherapy: Cancer cells are reduced or eliminated from the body with the help of some drugs. These medications spot the dividing cells, which makes them suitable for the cancer treatment. Chemotherapy has a more significant effect on cancers that might have spread to different parts of the body. However, chemotherapy is a strong intervention and can have few side effects such as, nausea, hair loss or weight loss.
Radiation Therapy: In this treatment doctors use high-energy rays to eradicate cancerous cells. Furthermore, it breaks up the DNA of cancer cells in a form that disturbs their growth and division. In some cases doctors may also recommend this therapy to shrink a tumor prior to the surgery. Radiation therapy is often recommended in combination with other treatments.
Targeted Therapy: As suggested by the name, this particular treatment targets a particular behavior in cancer cells and stops it from multiplying with the help of medications.