Lung Cancer Introduction
Lung Cancer Introduction
Lung cancer kills around 14,000 Americans each year and accounts for approximately 20% of all cancer deaths. Diagnosing any cancer as early as possible is essential for a good prognosis and to maximize the chances of making a full recovery.
Cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the human body, and depending upon where it originates in the body determines the initial classification. In the instance of lung cancer, the uncontrolled growth which creates a tumor begins in the lungs. Unfortunately, cancer can spread and this is known as “metastasis” and it is also important to determine whether this has occurred as quickly as possible during the initial diagnosis. This is because the treatment regime a patient undergoes will be partially determined by whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body or not.
The most common symptoms of lung cancer are shortness of breath, persistent coughing or coughing up blood and weight loss.
The principal types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and it is important again because it will help determine the treatment therapies which are appropriate for the patient in question. NSCLC may be treated by surgical removal of the affected tissue, while SCLC is frequently better treated with chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Smoking is frequently linked to the underlying cause of cancer, but in fact it is the frequent and prolonged exposure to tobacco smoke which is the key. Passive smoking is also a serious factor in whether a person will be susceptible to developing lung cancer, but aside from tobacco smoke there are numerous other factors at work too. Exposure to asbestos, genetic predisposition and air pollution all can play a part along with other factors which are not yet fully understood.
Lung cancer may be diagnosed as a consequence of a routine chest X-ray though there are much more sophisticated and accurate tools available for positive diagnosis. A Computed Tomography or CT scan, is similar to an X-ray however, it also provides much greater detail and precision as to the extent of the tumor and the position within the lungs and body. A biopsy is usually required to be taken in order to positively identify the cells as cancerous, and this is frequently carried out using a bronchoscopy or needle-biopsy which uses the CT Scan results to guide the surgeon. In some instances, an operation is required to remove part of the affected lung tissue for testing in the lab to ascertain the condition.
After positive diagnosis of the condition, the next stage in the process is to stage the disease. There are four stages running from Stage I (the best) to Stage IV (the worst) which ascertains the degree to which the cancer has spread – obviously, a very localized and smaller growth is much easier to treat than a cancer which has grown large and has spread to other parts of the body. This is why it is important to identify the condition at the very earliest stage possible in order to effectively treat the disease effectively and survival rates are dramatically higher for Stage I sufferers than for Stage IV.