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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world and is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, but high levels of pollution, radiation and asbestos exposure may also increase the risk of the disease.

Tobacco smoking (cigarettes, cigars, pipes) is the most important risk factor for lung cancer. Cigarettes, cigars, and pipe smoking all increase your risk for lung cancer. Being exposed to secondhand smoke is also a risk factor. (Lung Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute) Secondhand smoke is the smoke that comes from someone’s cigarette, cigar, or pipe. Secondhand smoke contains the same cancer-causing agents that come from smoking the actual tobacco, although in lesser amounts. What this means is that the best way to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking or avoid situations where you breathe in secondhand smoke.

There are two tests that are commonly used to screen for lung cancer. A chest x-ray will show the organs and bones inside the chest and indicate if there is any problem in the lungs. Sputum cytology is when sputum (or mucus) is brought up from the lungs by coughing and is then studied under a microscope to search for cancer cells.

A new test that is being studied through clinical trials is the spiral CT scan. This procedure makes a series of very detailed pictures of areas inside the body using an x-ray machine that scans the body in a spiral path. The pictures are made by a computer linked to the x-ray machine.

Here are some symptoms of lung cancer:
Shortness of breath
Chest pain, if a tumor invades a structure within the chest or involves the lining of the lung
Loss of appetite
Coughing up phlegm or mucus
Coughing up blood

Besides the various screening methods, there are other tests that are available to confirm a diagnosis of lung cancer. These include MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), needle aspiration/biopsy, bronchoscopy and others. (See Lung Cancer Diagnosis from the American Society of Clinical Oncology for more diagnostic methods)

Types of Lung Cancer:
There are many different types of lung cancer, but two major types: small cell and non-small cell. Non-small cell is the most common type of lung cancer.

Treatment Options:
Treatment of lung cancer will vary depending on the type of cancer and the stage of the cancer (how far it has spread in the body). Options include surgery, radiation treatment, chemotherapy and combination therapy. For more details on treatment options see Lung Cancer Treatment from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

For more information on lung cancer, check out these links:

Lung Cancer (American Society of Clinical Oncology)

Lung Cancer (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

Lung (Small Cell) Cancer Overview (American Cancer Society)

Lung (Non-small Cell) Cancer Overview (American Cancer Society)

1 comment:

  1. Cancer is one of the most debilitating conditions ever. As a medical safety professional, I have seen many DVDs and heard/read many stories of terminal stage cancers that could have been treated if the person had regular screenings. I recommend regular screenings and MRI/x-rays.