Cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. In 2007, African American men were 1.3 times more likely to have new cases of lung cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white men.
Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer. Scientists have reported widely on the link between cancer and smoking since the 1960s. Since then, study after study has provided more proof that cigarette smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer.
Secondhand smoke (breathing the smoke of others) increases your risk for lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking adults will die each year from lung cancer related to breathing secondhand smoke.
The following may also increase your risk for lung cancer:
• Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals such as uranium, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline, and diesel exhaust
• Family history of lung cancer
• High levels of air pollution
• High levels of arsenic in drinking water
• Radiation therapy to the lungs
• Radon gas
When lung cancer first develops, there may be no symptoms at all. But as the cancer grows, it can cause changes that people should watch for. Common signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:
• a cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
• constant chest pain
• coughing up blood
• shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
• repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
• swelling of the neck and face
• loss of appetite or weight loss
Exams and Tests
To find out if lung cancer may be present, the doctor evaluates a person’s medical history, smoking history, their exposure to environmental and occupational substances, and family history of cancer.
If lung cancer is suspected, the doctor may order a test called a sputum cytology. This is a simple test where a doctor examines a sample of mucous cells coughed up from the lungs under a microscope to see if cancer is present.
• Biopsies. To confirm the presence of lung cancer, the doctor must examine fluid or tissue from the lung.
• Bronchoscopy — The doctor puts a bronchoscope — a thin, lighted tube — into the mouth or nose and down through the windpipe to look into the breathing passages. Through this tube, the doctor can collect cells or small samples of tissue.
• Needle Aspiration — The doctor numbs the chest area and inserts a thin needle into the tumor to remove a sample of tissue.
• Thoracentesis — Using a needle, the doctor removes a sample of the fluid that surrounds the lungs to check for cancer cells.
• Thoracotomy — Surgery to open the chest is sometimes needed to diagnose lung cancer. This procedure is a major operation performed in a hospital.
Here are the standard treatments for lung cancer:
• Surgery is an operation to remove the cancer. Depending on the location of the tumor, the surgeon may remove a small part of the lung, a lobe of the lung, or the entire lung and possibly even part of the ribcage to get to the lung.
• Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Doctors use chemotherapy to control cancer growth and relieve symptoms. Anti-cancer drugs are given by injection; through a catheter, a long thin tube temporarily placed in a large vein; or in pill form.
• Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. An external machine delivers radiation to a limited area, affecting cancer cells only in that area. Doctors may use radiation before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells remaining in the treated area.
• Photodynamic therapy, a newer technique, is laser therapy that is used in combination with a chemical to kill cancer cells. Doctors may use it to reduce symptoms of lung cancer, such as bleeding, or to treat very small tumors.
Treating Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Doctors treat patients with non-small cell lung cancer in several ways, and surgery is a common treatment. Cryosurgery, a treatment that freezes and destroys cancer tissue, may be used to control symptoms in the later stages of non-small cell lung cancer. Doctors may also use radiation therapy and chemotherapy to slow the progress of the disease and to manage symptoms.
Treating Small-Cell Lung Cancer
Small cell lung cancer spreads quickly. In many cases, cancer cells have already spread to other parts of the body when the disease is diagnosed. In order to reach cancer cells throughout the body, doctors almost always use chemotherapy.
Lung cancer can cause complications, such as:
• Shortness of breath
• Coughing up blood
• Fluid in the chest (pleural effusion)
• Cancer that spreads to other parts of the body (metastasis)
When to Contact a Medical Professional
There’s no sure way to prevent lung cancer, but you can reduce your risk if you:
- Don’t smoke
- Stop smoking
- Avoid secondhand smoke
- Test your home for radon
- Avoid Carcinogens at work
- Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables
- Drink alcohol in moderation
Love those lungs by protecting them from one of the most common kinds of cancer. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may reduce your risk or support your treatment:
What You Need To Know:
• Benefit from B-vitamins
If you are a smoker, take 10,000 mcg a day of folic acid with a doctor’s supervision and 500 mcg a day of vitamin B12 to help reverse precancerous changes in the lungs
• Fill up on fruits and veggies
Lower your risk of lung cancer by eating more foods high in anticancer substances, such as flavonoids, beta-carotene, and lycopene
• Choose your meat and fish carefully
Eat more healthy fish to lower your risk, and avoid fried, fatty, or well-done meat to avoid meat-related carcinogens
• Say good-bye to smoking
Kick the habit for good and steer clear of secondhand smoke, two of the leading causes of lung cancer
• Smokers: skip the beta-carotene supplements
If you are a smoker, get your beta-carotene from food, not supplements, to avoid a possible lung-cancer-promoting effect
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full lung cancer article for more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and lifestyle changes that may be helpful.