Lung cancer is cancer that forms in the tissues of the lungs by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. These abnormal cells do not carry out the functions of normal lung cells and do not develop into healthy lung tissue. As they grow, the abnormal cells can form a mass called a tumor, a lesion or a nodule. These masses can be benign or cancerous.
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States and worldwide.
There are two types of lung cancer, non-small cell and small cell.
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common form of lung cancer and accounts for 85 percent of lung cancers. Among them are these types of tumors: adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large-cell carcinoma. This type of lung cancer identifies the progression of the disease by stages 1-4 with stage 4 being the highest severity.
Small cell lung cancer begins in the nerve cells or hormone-producing cells of the lung. Small cell lung cancer is more likely to be linked to smoking than non-small cell lung cancer, and it grows more rapidly and spreads easily to other parts of the body earlier than non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer is more responsive to chemotherapy. This type of cancer has two stages of cancer levels, limited and extensive levels. In the extensive stage, cancer has spread to the other lung, the fluid around the lung or to other organs in the body.
The signs and symptoms of lung cancer can take years to develop and may not appear until the disease is advanced.
Symptoms of lung cancerin the chest:
- Coughing, especially if it persists or becomes intense
- Pain in the chest, shoulder or back unrelated to pain from coughing
- A change in color or volume of sputum
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in the voice or being hoarse
- Harsh sounds with each breath (stridor)
- Recurrent lung problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Coughing up phlegm or mucus, especially if it is tinged with blood
- Coughing up blood
If the original lung cancer has spread, a person may feel symptoms in other places in the body. Common places for lung cancer to spread include other parts of the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, brain, liver and adrenal glands.
Symptoms of lung cancer that may occurelsewhere in the body:
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Muscle wasting (also known as cachexia)
- Headaches, bone or joint pain
- Bone fractures not related to accidental injury
- Neurological symptoms, such as unsteady walking or memory loss
- Neck or facial swelling
- General weakness
- Blood clots
There are four cancer treatment options that our oncologists offer for lung cancer patients, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. The treatment options depend on the size and location of the tumor, the type of lung cancer, whether the cancer has spread and the person’s overall health.
Talk to your doctor to learn more about all treatment options. Need to find a doctor? Call (316) 962-DOCS to find a doctor who specializes in cancer care.
There’s no sure way to prevent lung cancer, but you can reduce your risk by not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke. If you live or work with a smoker, urge them to quit. If you are a smoker, stop smoking now. Quitting reduces your risk of lung cancer, even if you’ve smoked for years.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, cigarette smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80 percent of deaths caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Don’t be discouraged if you’ve already tried to quit before. Instead, think about what helped you during those times and what you’ll do differently in your next attempt. And you don’t have to quit alone. Telling friends and family that you’re trying to quit and enlisting their support will help ease the process. Talk to your doctor about strategies and smoking cessation aids that can help with quitting.