Lung Cancer

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Lung cancer is a challenging diagnosis that affects over 200,000 men and women every year. Risk factors play a huge part in lung cancer so if you have any risk factors, it’s important to have regular screenings.

Some factors that can contribute to the risk of developing lung cancer include:

  • Smoking. Tobacco smoke continues to be the leading cause of lung cancer. Smoking of any kind – including cigarettes, cigars, or pipes – can dramatically increase the risk of developing lung cancer. However, even non-smokers are at risk for developing lung cancer through secondhand smoke. The amount of exposure to smoke increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Family History.
  • Personal History of Lung Cancer. There is an increased risk of secondary tumor growth once you’ve had lung cancer.
  • Pollution. Many people may be surprised to learn that air pollution is a significant factor for developing lung cancer and the risk associated with exposure is greater for smokers.
  • Chemicals and Asbestos. Those who work in the chemical and construction industries and are exposed to risky substances such as asbestos, soot, arsenic, tar, chromium, and others on a daily basis, are more at risk for developing lung cancer. Risk increases with the number of years of exposure.
  • Radon. An odorless, invisible, tasteless gas, radon forms in rocks and soil. For this reason, those who work in mines are at risk for exposure. Additionally, radon can be found in houses in some parts of the country. Exposure to radon can damage lung cells and put people at an increased risk for lung cancer.
  • Age. Those who are diagnosed with lung cancer are most often older than 65 years of age.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

In its early stages, lung cancer generally has minimal to no symptoms. With the growth of the tumor, however, symptoms begin to develop such as:

  • Ongoing chest pain that doesn’t seem to go away.
  • Coughing that does not resolve or gets worse.
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
  • Contracting lung infections frequently, including pneumonia.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Hoarse voice.

While these symptoms can also be symptomatic of other issues – and most often are not indicative of lung cancer – they must be assessed by a doctor. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor for a check-up.

Diagnosing Lung Cancer

Your doctor may determine that your symptoms require testing. In this case, your doctors may order:

  • A physical exam. During this examination, your doctor will assess your overall health, listen to your breathing and determine if there is fluid in your lungs. Comprehensive blood tests may also be ordered.
  • An X-Ray. A chest x-ray will reveal fluid in your lungs or evidence of tumors.
  • CT Scan. A CT scan takes images of chest tissue which can reveal evidence of fluid, tumors, and/or swollen lymph nodes.
  • Samples of cells or tissues will also be examined and tested by a pathologist to determine if lung cancer is present. Tissue or cell samples can be collected by:
  • Fine-Needle Aspiration. This procedure involves a thin needle that is inserted into the lungs to remove tissue or fluid for further examination.
  • Thoracentesis. Fluid is removed from the lungs using a long needle inserted into the chest.
  • Bronchoscopy. A bronchoscope is a thin tube that is inserted into the lungs through the nose or mouth. Once the bronchoscope is in place, the doctor is able to exam the lungs or remove cell or tissue samples.
  • Thoracotomy. A more invasive diagnostic tool, a thoracotomy involves a surgeon making an incision in the chest to remove lymph nodes and other tissue for testing.
  • Thoracoscopy. Rather than one incision, a thoracoscopy involves the surgeon making multiple small incisions in the chest and back to examine the lungs and connected tissues.
  • Mediastinoscopy. A mediastinoscopy involves an incision being made at the top of the breastbone after which a thin, lighted tube is inserted inside the incision to examine the lungs. Tissues and lymph node samples may also be taken at that time.
  • Sputum Cytology. This is a lab procedure that examines the thick fluid coughed up from the lungs known as sputum.

Types of Lung Cancer

The type of lung cancer is very important in determining treatment and must be assessed before any type of treatment plan is put into place. The types of lung cancer are defined by how the cancer cells appear when looking at them under a microscope.

  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer – This is the most common form of lung cancer and is a slow spreading cancer.
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer – Small cell lung cancer occurs in a smaller percentage of diagnosed lung cancer and is a fast spreading cancer.

Lung Cancer Treatment

Treatment will largely depend on the type of lung cancer that you have and the stage of the cancer itself. Treatment therapies may include surgery, targeted therapy, radiation, and chemotherapy, as well as a combination of any of these treatments. Generally, treatment is defined as either local therapy or systemic therapy.

  • Local Therapy – This is a targeted, site-specific therapy meant to directly target cancer in a particular part of the body. Local therapies include radiation and surgery.
  • Systemic Therapy – Included in systemic therapy is targeted therapy and chemotherapy; medication that fights cancer cells throughout the body.

Side effects will depend on the type of therapy that you receive and the length of your treatment. Our team will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan so that you know exactly what to expect.

If you have any questions about lung cancer or would like to make an appointment for a screening or to discuss treatment, do not hesitate to call us at any time. We’re happy to work with you.

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