Lung Cancer - Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment
Lung cancer is a cancer that occurs in the lungs. The lungs are two spongy organs in the chest that take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide when you exhale. When the cells in the lungs start growing abnormally, they form a mass or a tumor that can interfere with the normal functioning of the lungs.
This blog will discuss the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Causes
Lung cancer is a complex disease that various factors, including environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors, can cause. Here is a systematic overview of the primary lung cancer causes:
- Tobacco smoking: This is one of the primary lung cancer causes, which is responsible for around 80% of all cases. Smoking involves inhaling carcinogenic chemicals that damage the cells in the lungs and other parts of the body. The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes they smoke, the greater their risk of developing lung cancer.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to certain environmental factors can also increase the risk of lung cancer. For example, exposure to radon gas, a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in soil, rock, and water, can increase the risk of lung cancer. Exposure to asbestos, a mineral used in construction and manufacturing, can also increase the risk of lung cancer, especially in people exposed to it for prolonged periods.
- Genetic factors: Genetic factors can also play a role in developing lung cancer. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to the disease, meaning they are more likely to develop lung cancer if exposed to certain environmental factors or engage in certain lifestyle behaviors.
- Lifestyle factors: Certain lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of developing lung cancer. For example, poor diet and lack of exercise can weaken the immune system and increase cancer risk. Exposure to passive smoke can also increase the risk of lung cancer, as can other carcinogens, such as air pollution and certain chemicals used in the workplace.
Lung Cancer Diagnosis
Lung cancer diagnosis typically involves several tests and procedures to confirm the presence of the disease and determine its severity. Here is a systematic overview of the lung cancer diagnosis process:
- Medical history and physical exam: The first step in diagnosing lung cancer is usually a medical and physical exam. The doctor will ask the patient about their symptoms, medical history, and any risk factors they may have for lung cancer, such as smoking or exposure to environmental toxins. They will also perform a physical exam to check for signs of lung cancer, such as a persistent cough or shortness of breath.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as chest X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, can be used to visualize the lungs and detect abnormalities, such as tumors or nodules. These tests can also help determine the size and location of any tumors.
- Biopsy: If imaging tests reveal a suspicious mass or nodule in the lungs, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm the presence of cancer. During a biopsy, a small tissue sample is removed from the lung and examined under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present.
- Sputum cytology: In some cases, lung cancer can be diagnosed by analyzing a patient's sputum, or phlegm, under a microscope. This is known as sputum cytology and is often used to diagnose non-small cell lung cancer.
- Molecular testing: Molecular testing is a diagnostic test that analyzes the DNA and RNA of cancer cells to determine their genetic makeup.
- Staging: Once lung cancer has been diagnosed, the next step is to determine the stage of the disease. Staging is determining the extent of cancer and its spread to other parts of the body.
Lung Cancer Treatment
Lung cancer treatment may involve one or a combination of the following options: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy.
Surgery is often the primary lung cancer treatment for early-stage cancer. It involves removing the tumor and surrounding tissue from the lungs. There are different surgical approaches to removing lung cancer, depending on the size and location of the tumor. For instance, a wedge resection may be performed if the tumor is small and localized, while a lobectomy may be necessary if cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams of radiation to kill cancer cells. It is a primary treatment for early-stage lung cancer or palliative treatment to relieve symptoms in the advanced stages of the disease. External beam radiation therapy involves directing radiation to the tumor from outside the body, while internal radiation therapy involves placing radioactive material inside the body near the tumor.
Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It is often used in combination with other treatments for lung cancer, such as surgery or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy drugs can be administered orally or intravenously. The side effects of chemotherapy can include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, and an increased risk of infections.
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that helps the patient's immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. It blocks the proteins that help cancer cells evade the immune system. Immunotherapy is typically used in patients with advanced-stage lung cancer who have not responded to other treatments.
Targeted therapy involves using drugs that specifically target the genetic mutations or proteins that promote the growth of cancer cells. It is often used in patients with advanced-stage lung cancer with specific genetic mutations.
Lung cancer is a complex and serious disease that affects millions of people around the world. The primary cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoking, but environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of developing the disease.
While lung cancer can be a devastating diagnosis, early detection and effective treatment can greatly improve a patient's chances of survival and quality of life. It is essential to understand the causes and risk factors of lung cancer and the diagnostic and treatment options available to make informed decisions about prevention, screening, and care.
If you think you might be at risk of lung cancer, consult a Lung Specialist at Medanta Medicity Hospital immediately!