- Non- small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) like adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma are the most common types of lung cancers, occurring among both current or former smokers and non-smokers. Their symptoms, diagnoses and prognoses are also similar and can be diagnosed before they spread to other organs. They are more common in people of younger age groups.
- Small cell lung cancers are less commonandoccur mostly among heavy smokers only. It is usually considerably spread by the time it is detected, in over 70% cases. These types of cancers spread rapidly, and are most likely to return even after chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Once lung cancer spread to other organs, they are usually not curable.
- Lung carcinoid tumours are less common and grow slowly.
- Other lung cancers like adenoid cystic carcinomas, lymphomas, sarcomas occur rarely.
- Benign lung tumours like hamartomas are also rare.
- Cancer that spreads from other organs to the lungs.
- Smoking: The number of cigarettes smoked daily and number of years of smoking are a huge risk factor. It has been seen that quitting smoking at any point and at any age, considerably reduces the risk of developing lung cancer. The smoke from tobacco has carcinogens which begins to damage tissues and cells of the lungs almost immediately from the day a person starts smoking.
- Long-term exposure to second-hand smoke;
- Exposure to radiation therapy for cancers in other organs of the body;
- Frequent x-rays of chest area, especially in childhood;
- Exposure to asbestos, and other carcinogens like arsenic, chromium and nickel at workplace (cement factories, coal mining fields, chemical factories, etc.);
- Exposure to Radon gas (which is a by-product of uranium used in nuclear power plant) which penetrates the air, soil and water in the surrounding areas of nuclear reactor plant sites;
- Family history of cancer and lung cancer heightens the risk.
- Hoarse voice or changes in voice;
- Shortness of breath;
- Stubborn, lingering cough;
- Coughing blood;
- Frequent lung infections like bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy;
- Chest pain;
- Pain in bones;
- Fatigue and weakness;
- Weight loss without effort;
- Swelling in lymph nodes of chest area;
- Fluid collection in the lungs or pleural cavity.
Diagnosis is done by:
- Blood test for measuring cancer markers;
- Sputum (mucous) test;
- Biopsy of tumorous growth and pleural effusion;
- X-ray, MRI, CT and PET scans.
Treatment depends on the stage and progression of the cancer.