Lung Cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs. Your lungs are two spongy organs in your chest that take in oxygen when you inhale and release carbon dioxide when you exhale. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.
People who are exposed to cigarette smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer, though lung cancer can also occur in people who have never smoked. Smoking (both active smoking and passive/second hand smoking) causes more than 80% of all lung cancers. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you’ve smoked (also known as pack years). If you quit smoking, even after smoking for many years, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer. There are patients of lung cancer who do not have an exposure to cigarette smoke, and the cause of lung cancer in such patients is not well known, and could be multifactorial. These include a family history of lung cancer and prior exposure to ionising radiation among the many others.
How smoking causes lung cancer: Doctors believe smoking causes lung cancer by damaging the cells that line the lungs. When you inhale cigarette smoke, which is full of cancer-causing substances (carcinogens), changes in the lung tissue begin almost immediately. At first your body may be able to repair this damage. But with each repeated exposure, normal cells that line your lungs are increasingly damaged. Over time, the damage accumulates and causes cells to act abnormally and eventually cancer may develop.
Symptoms: Lung cancer typically doesn’t cause signs and symptoms in its earliest stages, and most of them are non specific, similar to other benign lung disease. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur when the disease is advanced.
• A new cough that doesn’t go away, especially if it lasts for more than three weeks, not responding to the usual treatment
• Coughing up blood, even a small amount
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain
• Hoarseness of voice
• unintentional weight loss
• Bony pain
Types of Lung Cancer:
There are two major types of lung cancer, the Small Cell Carcinoma and Non-Small Cell Carcinoma, of which the small cell carcinoma is almost exclusively due to smoking, and has a very bad outcome.
If not diagnosed early, lung cancer cells can move out of the lung and spread to adjacent as well as distant organs. The following are the major complications:
- Spread to the lining of the lung, the pleura can lead to accumulation of fluid around the lung, which can alter the normal breathing mechanism.
- The tumor can spread to the regional lymph nodes which can compress important nerves and blood vessels, leading to compressive symptoms
- Exertional breathlessness can occur due to decrease in functional lung tissue
- Most dreaded complication is the spread of the cancer to distant organs like liver, adrenal glands and brain. When such a spread occurs, the disease may not be fully curable and can only be controlled, occasionally requiring lifelong therapy.
- Avoidance of smoking in all ways
- Maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle
- Reporting immediately to the doctor at the onset of symptoms