A great majority of all lung cancer cases are born from smoking, not only in those who actually smoke, but those who breathe in secondhand smoke on a regular basis too. It also occurs in people that have not had any exposure to smoke. In some cases, there is no specific apparent cause for lung cancer development. There are different kinds of lung cancer including small cell lung cancer, which occurs in heavy smokers almost exclusively, and non-small cell lung cancer, which can affect essentially anyone. There are also multiple types of non-small cell lung cancers including large cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
The presence of lung cancer can cause a number of potential complications including coughing up blood, bleeding in the airways, shortness of breath, fluid in the chest known as pleural effusion, metastasis of the cancer meaning that it spreads to other areas of the body and death. Because of the severity of these complications, it is vitally essential that individuals with lung cancer or lung cancer symptoms seek medical help immediately.
Most forms of lung cancers do not cause symptoms or signs in the early stages, so by the time symptoms begin to appear, the cancer is more than likely quite advanced. Some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with lung cancer include: a cough that does not go away, shortness of breath, chronic cough, coughing up blood, hoarseness, chest pain, bone pain, wheezing, headache and losing weight without meaning to. If any of these signs and symptoms appear, it is best to seek medical attention to diagnose the cause.
The first round of testing for lung cancer will involve biopsy or tissue sample, sputum cytology and imaging tests such as computerized tomography (CT) and x-ray scans. If lung cancer is present, then the next step will determine the stage of cancer, which speaks to how advanced the cancer is and whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body. Staging the lung cancer is essential in determining the right treatment options for the condition.
For small cell lung cancers, the treatment options may include surgery when possible, coupled with radiation and chemotherapy. For later stages of the cancer, supportive care, clinical trials and the aforementioned treatment options may be recommended. However, surgical removal of the cancer is only really effective in the first stage before the cancer has spread. For non-small cell lung cancers, the first stage is typically treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Later stages of the cancer are treated using surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy and radiation, targeted drug therapy, supportive care and clinical trials. A tailored treatment plan is ideal in providing the patient with the best course of action for their recovery.