CANCER

What Is Lung Cancer? All You Need To Know About Its Symptoms and Treatment

Smoking and exposure to chemicals like radon causes lung cancer

Lung cancer is of two types: non-small cell and small-cell lung cancer

Lung cancer symptoms include chest pain, back pain, coughing and wheezing

D
Dr. Nikhil Mehta
June 25th, 2021
5 mins read

The cells in your body die after a certain amount of time. This is a cyclic process that prevents the accumulation of cells. But, when cells in your lungs grow quickly and uncontrollably, without dying, they form a lung cancer tumor.

According to Indian Journal of Medical Research (2015), lung cancer is the most common cancer in India. As per the study, its causes vary from one region to another, but smoking is a key contributor. Apart from this, people who come in contact with chemicals or toxic substances are also at risk.

As it is one of the most common cancers in our country, familiarise yourself with all the facts and figures. Learn all about lung cancer types, symptoms, treatment and more.

Lung cancer types

Now that you know what is lung cancer, take a look at the two main types. These are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). In NSCLC and SCLC, cells differ in size when you view them under a microscopic lens.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

This is the more common type of lung cancer, and has several sub-types. Some of them are as follows:

  • Originating in the respiratory tract passages, this NSCLC is known as squamous cell carcinoma.
  • If it takes root in the part of the lungs that creates mucus, it is an adenocarcinoma.
  • A large-cell carcinoma can originate in any part of the lungs, in large cells, as the name suggests. Large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma is sub-variant that grows rapidly.

Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC)

The number of cases of small-cell lung cancer are low, however, these cancer cells grow more quickly. While SCLC responds to chemotherapy, on the whole, it isn’t usually curable.

These are the two main types of lung cancers. However, remember that it is possible for a lung cancer tumor to comprise both NSCLC and SCLC cells. Depending on the size of tumour and how it has spread, doctors categorise patients into the following stages.

Steps to Healthy Lungs

Patient Categories

Non-small cell lung cancer stages

Hidden Cancerous cells aren’t visible in scans, but are in mucous or phlegm samples

  • Stage 0: Cancerous cells are only found on the topmost layer of cells that line the airways
  • Stage 1: Cancer is in a lung but hasn’t spread outside
  • Stage 2: Cancer is in a lung and has spread to surrounding lymph nodes
  • Stage 3: The cancer has spread to other parts of the lung, areas surrounding the lung, as well as surrounding lymph nodes
  • Stage 4: Cancer has spread to both lungs and areas surrounding the lungs. It has also metastasised to other distant organs, such as the brain.

Small-cell lung cancer

Limited Cancer has harmed only the chest region and surrounding lymph nodes

Extensive Cancer has affected both lungs, area around the lungs as well as distant organs

Lung cancer symptoms

Unfortunately, lung cancer symptoms show up only once the cancer reaches an advanced stage. Some of the common symptoms are as follows:

  • Chest pain
  • Back pain
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough (that keeps worsening)
  • Frequently-occurring chest infections
  • Hoarse voice
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Coughing blood
  • Headaches
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • As many of these symptoms are like those of a respiratory condition, people often ignore them. However, it’s best to consult a doctor if symptoms persist.

Lung cancer causes

One of the most common lung cancer causes is smoking. When you smoke a cigarette, it immediately harms your lung’s tissues. While your body can handle some damage, when you smoke regularly, the damage is far and wide. This means that your body isn’t able to keep up with the extent of damage. Once your lung tissues are harmed, the likelihood of you suffering from lung cancer increases. This is especially true for SCLC, also known as small cell lung cancer. If you combine this with exposure to radon, the risk multiplies.

Chemicals such as nickel, arsenic, uranium and cadmium also cause lung cancer. In addition to this, lung cancer causes include:

  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Exposure to diesel exhaust
  • Exposure to air pollution
  • Inherited genetic mutations

Lung cancer diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose lung cancer, doctors order a series of imaging tests such as X-Rays, MRIs, CT scans and PET scans. This helps them view the tumour as well as other parts of the body that may have been affected. Next, doctors order a biopsy. Here, they take a tissue sample and test it for cancerous cells.

Thereafter, treatment includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. It varies from one patient to another, depending on the severity of the cancer. Remember that lung cancer is fatal, but early diagnosis and expert advice give you a good shot at recovery.

In the current scenario, note that some symptoms of lung cancer are also applicable to coronavirus. If you experience chest pain, fatigue or shortness of breath, follow COVID protocol. Isolate yourself and monitor your symptoms closely.

Find the best specialists on Bajaj Finserv Health, whether you need to speak to a general physician or a pulmonologist. Book an online or physical consultation with a range of doctors in your city. Apart from this, you can also access discounts and deals through partner clinics.

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

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