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Lung Cancer- Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Treatment

Introduction to Lung Cancer:

Lung Cancer is a disease in which the cells of the lung undergo a transformation and begin to grow abnormally forming tumors. These tumors invade upon the healthy tissues and cells and feed upon their oxygen and nutrients. They inhibit the neighboring healthy tissues from working and slowly spread and plunge upon the entire organ until it ceases to work.

Lungs are the organs that are responsible for respiration in our body. Lung Cancer is the leading cause of death among men and women. It has also surpassed death rates by breast cancer. The death rate due to lung cancer is higher than the combined death rates due to breast, colon, rectal and prostate cancer.

Causes of Lung Cancer:

1. Smoking Cigarettes:

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer among both men and women. The smoke emitted from cigarettes contain nearly 4000 chemicals of which a majority have been responsible for causing lung cancer. The chances of lung cancer increase by 25-30% in a person who smokes a packet of cigarette every day than a person who does not smoke at all. The threat of lung cancer exists in smoking cigars and pipes but it is not as high as while smoking cigarettes.

2.  Using Tobacco:

More than 80% of instances of lung cancer have happened due to using tobacco.

3. Passive Smoking:

Passive smoking or Secondhand smoking is a condition wherein the person does not smoke himself/herself. He/She is just constantly exposed to an area where cigarette smoke is emitted by others who may be smoking around them. This could for example be staying in the company of a chain smoker for a prolonged period of time. Though the person is not guilty of smoking, the smoke emitted by someone around is inhaled and thus increases the risk of Lung Cancer.

4. Air Pollution:

A highly polluted air due to emission of harmful gases from vehicles, factories and other such similar places causes an equal amount of irreparable damage to your lungs. Surveys are conducted by autonomous bodies to check a particular city’s air quality for reference. These surveys could help you identify the cause of lung cancer at particular places and can help to proceed in the measures to control the same.

5. Exposure to Harmful Chemicals:

Exposure to harmful chemicals like asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer in a person by 9 times. Certain occupations require people to be in constant contact with harmful chemicals like arsenic, chromium, nickel and hydrocarbons. These are responsible for development of cancerous tumors in the lungs. There have been some studies linking agarbatti or incense smoke to cancer as well.

6. Previous History of Lung Disease:

Lung disease like Tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) act as a precondition to Lung Cancer. The risk of one having lung cancer is just doubled when someone has had any of such lung disorders because these diseases make lungs of a person weak.

7. Radon Exposure:

Radon is a by-product of Radium. A constant exposure to radon could be a potent risk factor for lung cancer.

8. Previous History of Lung Cancer:

Someone who has been affected by lung cancer earlier is at a much higher risk of having one again.

9. Exposure to Talk Miners 

Many studies have been conducted on two groups of people: talc miners and general people who use talcum powder. The studies suggest that talc miners have a higher risk of not only lung cancer but various other respiratory diseases. According to the studies, there was no increase in the risk of lung cancer in the second group.

In its natural form, talc can contain some amount of asbestos and other harmful minerals. When talc is used in consumer products, it is purified. As a result, people using talcum powder do not have a higher risk of getting lung cancer. As talc miners work underground, they are often exposed to other harmful substances such as radon which can cause lung cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer:

1. Coughing due to Lung Cancer:

Cough is a very common problem that could happen due to cold or viral infection but the warning sign over here is a cough that exists for a fairly long period of time. Common Cough and cold are curable within about a week or so. If your cough is taking longer to heal, this could be an alarm hinting to lung cancer.

2. Gradual Changes in Cough:

You must pay attention whether your cough is dry or has mucus. A chronic cough in which you spit out blood is a sign of danger. Your coughing may become too intense and also may begin to sound hoarse. This is specially to be paid heed to if you’re used to smoking more often.

3. Changes in Breathing Patterns:

Shortness of Breath or being easily weary of inhaling and exhaling exercise is a sign to look out for. Changes in breathing can occur if lung cancer blocks or narrows an airway, or if fluid from a lung tumor builds up in the chest.

4. Wheezing due to Lung Cancer:

Due to constrictions in pathways carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide, breathing or coughing may produce a wheezing sound. This may sound like you’r blowing a whistle.

5. Painful Chest:

It is obvious that lungs are placed in your chest. Thus lung cancer developments could cause abnormal pain in the chest area. You may experience instances of shooting pain while breathing or coughing. The pain may vary from being sharp, to consistent and dull as well. Nevertheless, any kind of pain in this region is not to be overlooked.

6. Raspier, Hoarse Voice:

Your vocal chord also gets affected and you may find yourself sounding increasingly unpleasant overtime. The hoarseness in your voice is o be taken a note of. Hoarse voice, if persisting for a long duration, needs attention from the doctor.

7. Pains in the Bones:

The bones of your shoulders, back arms may begin to pain. The pain aggravates while sleeping or during movements.

8. Weight Loss:

A sudden drop in the weight could be hinting towards lung cancer. This may be due to the shift in energy being used by the cells. More energy from food could be used to perform the normal tasks than for a healthy growth of your body.

9. Headache:

If your lung cancer has spread to the brain, that may cause headache. This is however not the case in all lung Cancers. Sometimes, Lung Cancer could cause the Blood Pressure to shoot which may cause headaches.

Treatment for Lung Cancer:

  • Treatment for Lung Cancer depends upon the type. There are two types of lung cancers, Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) and Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC).
  • It also depends on the stage of advancement of the cancer cells.
  • The procedures used to treat lung cancer such as chemotherapy have their side effects based on the drugs that are used during the therapy.
  • In order to prevent the cancer from relapsing, preventive or adjuvant chemotherapy is used. This destroys the hidden deposits of cancerous cells and prevents it from re-emerging.
  • Lung Cancer Surgery is an option while treating the NSCLC type of lung cancer and that too in the initial days of diagnosis. If the cancer spreads and grows, this option is not available for those patients.
  • SCLC lung cancer cannot be removed by surgery because it spreads at a quick rate and thus removing all affected areas is not an option available for exercise in this situation.
  • Check out for the best cancer hospitals in New York to achieve the best medical attention to your problem.

An early adaptation to a healthier life is the key to prevent fatal diseases like lung cancer. Where the causes of most kinds of cancers are fairly unknown, it is not the case with lung cancer. One can easily identify habits like smoking to be a potential risk factors. The day to quit your bad habits pushing you towards pain and agony is today. As they rightly say “better late than never”, the time to start giving up is today.

Shabnam Vandeliwala

Venturing into writing is my second most admired hobby after litigating in courts. An advocate by profession, writing gives me immense sense of satisfaction especially in the time that I'm free from other work.

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