all you need to know

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O lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world and the leading cause of death from cancerous disease.

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Although smoking is the main risk factor, other factors that may contribute to its development are the individual’s genetic predisposition and exposure to carcinogens.

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A persistent cough, in the case of people with chronic cough, or a change in its characteristics may be a common symptom.

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Like all cancers, lung cancer development is due to abnormal and unregulated cell multiplication. The accumulation of these disordered cells gives rise to malignant tumors.

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They eventually spread to other parts of the body, where new tumors develop (metastasis).

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In the case of lung cancer, it is located in the trachea (the tubular organ in the throat through which air enters), in the bronchi (airways), or in the air sacs of the lungs (alveoli).

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As they grow in size, the dysregulated cells that give rise to the lung cancer tumor eventually invade other areas of the chest or pass into the bloodstream and reach organs such as the liver, bone and brain.

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Understanding lung cancer

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Risk factors

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The major risk factor for lung cancer is undoubtedly smoking. This conclusion is based on the fact that 85-90% of cases occur in smokers. In addition, tobacco smoke contains about five thousand substances, of which at least fifty are capable of causing cancer.

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However, there are a number of other external factors that can cause lung cancer:

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  • Smoking tobacco;
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  • Passive smoking;
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  • Air pollution;
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  • Radiation (miners in uranium mines);
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  • Asbestos exposure;
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  • Exclusive use of fires for cooking or heating.
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The risk of lung cancer decreases in people who quit smoking, although they remain at higher risk than people who have never smoked.

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Some studies also point out that certain respiratory diseases may increase the risk of lung cancer, namely the following:

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A considerable percentage of people who develop lung cancer have never smoked, or have smoked very little, or have had no disease at risk. In these cases, it is recognized that the causes may be related to certain genetic mutations.

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Genes may, in fact, play an important role in some lung cancers. If there is a family history of the disease, the likelihood of developing this cancer is higher, although this is not the case for all people.

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Types of lung cancer

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There are two main types of lung cancer, related to the characteristics of the cells involved and with distinct consequences for disease severity: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

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Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common and slowest growing cancer.

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Small cell lung cancer, on the other hand, is very aggressive and spreads rapidly. Therefore, by the time most people are diagnosed, the disease has spread to other parts of the body.

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Other rarer types of cancer include lymphomas (which affect the bloodstream), mesothelioma (which is due to asbestos exposure), bronchial glandular carcinomas, and bronchial carcinoid tumors (which may also be non-cancerous).

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Symptoms

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The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

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  • Chronic cough (lasting more than three weeks);
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  • Spitting blood, or with traces of blood in sputum;
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  • Losing weight for no reason;
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  • Running out of steam for no reason;
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  • Lack of appetite;
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  • Fatigue;
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  • Chest pain;
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  • Bone pain;
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  • Shoulder pain;
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  • Neck swelling;
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  • Muscle Weakness;
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  • Hoarseness (weak, hoarse or tired voice);
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  • Stridor (whistling-like sound due to airway obstruction).
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  • Square shaped fingers and toes (swollen)
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Often, early symptoms go undetected because they are associated with other common diseases. There are also people who have no symptoms at all.

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Lung cancer is very serious and the prognosis depends very much on the time of diagnosis and the subtype of cancer. When it is early enough, the prognosis improves significantly and the risk of complications decreases.

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Treatment

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Because there are several types of lung cancer, treatments can also vary.

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The treatment plan depends on the type of cancer, the person’s general health and personal preferences.

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Treatments can also have different goals, either focusing on curing lung cancer (curative treatments) or helping the person live longer and with a better quality of life (palliative treatments).

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In addition, they usually involve multidisciplinary clinical teams, namely pulmonologists, surgeons, oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, psychologists, nurses and palliative care physicians.

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Depending on each case, treatment may involve different interventions:

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  • Surgery (for tumor removal)
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  • Chemotherapy (slows the development of cancer)
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  • Radiotherapy (destroys cancer cells)
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  • Drugs designed to block the growth of cancer cells
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Lung cancer patients can also benefit greatly from psychological counseling, which helps them not only to comply with treatment, but also to cope with the emotional and physical consequences of the disease.

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