Understanding Lung Cancer

  • Apr 18, 2019
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Also called lung carcinoma, Lung Cancer is a malignant lung tumour characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in the lung tissues.

By metastasis, this growth can spread beyond the lungs into nearby tissues or other body parts.

Males above 50 are at the highest risk, but mortality in females is rising.

Causes

  • Smoking (active/passive)
  • Radon gas
  • Asbestosis
  • Air pollution
  • Genetics
  • Toxic gas, heavy metal fumes
  • Ionizing radiation

Types

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer: Neuroendocrine cancer
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: adenocarcinoma, squamous-cell carcinoma, large-cell carcinoma
  • Others: Adenosquamous, carcinoid, sarcomatoid
  • Metastasis: Depends on primary histopathology

Signs and Symptoms

  • Respiratory symptoms: coughing, throwing up blood, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
  • Systemic symptoms: weight loss, weakness, fever, or clubbing of the fingernails.
  • Symptoms due to the cancer mass pressing on adjacent structures: chest pain, bone pain, superior vena cava obstruction, or difficulty swallowing.

Diagnosis and Staging

  • History and physical examination
  • Cytopathology and Histopathology (Bronchoscopy, CT/USG-guided)
  • Computed Tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • PET – CT
  • Others: Routine check-up and fitness for receiving treatment

There are four stages – stage 1 is well localised and stage 4 is advanced/metastatic.

Treatment
Multimodality Approach

  • Surgery (removal of the tumour with regional draining lymph nodes)
  • Radiotherapy/chemo-radiotherapy (radical, neo-adjuvant, adjuvant, palliative)
  • Chemotherapy (neo-adjuvant, adjuvant, palliative)
  • Targeted therapy
  • Palliative/symptomatic (as per symptoms)

Prognosis
Good prognosis is expected in the early stages of the disease. As the stage progresses, however, the chances of cure and survival diminish. But advancement in technologies and the availability of new drugs allow the patient a better quality of life and symptom-free survival.

Prevention
Personal Level

  • Quit smoking and tobacco.
  • Lifestyle and diet modifications.

Community Level

  • Regular screening.
  • Creating public awareness about Lung Cancer.
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