Lung Cancer Exclusive Information - Everything You Need to Know
Among the accounted cancer deaths, lung cancer is the leading, with about 1.76 million deaths worldwide. The second disease with a high mortality rate worldwide is cancer, which accounts for one in four deaths in the U.S. only.
The latest cancer statistics of 2017 by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that there were 221,121 lung cancer new cases in the U.S. On the same data, the number of cancer death cases were 145,849.
That means 55 of 100,000 people in the U.S have lung cancer, while 37 people of the said 100,000 people die of lung cancer.
And you know what?
Anyone is vulnerable to lung cancer. It does not prejudice against race, gender, or age. However, some factors place you at a high risk of lung cancer. Follow the conversation to find out more about lung cancer.What is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is a cancer type in the lung tissue cells, especially of the airways and the peripheral. Cancer cells are likely to form in the lungs' inner parts, including the airways and the alveoli.
The regular cells in the body grow, divide, and die systematically, and then new cells grow to replace the dead ones.
Due to some abnormality, the said process can change for some cells. Such cells begin to grow and divide uncontrollably to overcrowd other normal-growing cells and interfere with their normal functioning.
The abnormal cells grow and produce new ones even when there is no reason for replacement. The killer cells continue to grow, and after some time, they start to spread to other parts of the body, a process medically called metastasis.
Lung cancer is primarily a self-made lung condition. Most of us are the primary contributors to the causing factors such as environmental, diet, pollution, and lifestyles.
The great news is that lung cancer is treatable and curable when detected and diagnosed early. It has a higher curable rate when treated within its early-stages or when reported at the earliest after its onset. The curable rate in the early-stage treatment for some lung cancer types is between 80 to 90 percent.
However, as the disease advances and spreads to other body parts, it becomes more challenging to treat, and the survival rate narrows. The curable rate drops dramatically as the tumor becomes more advanced and affects the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
Lung cancer is the umbrella name of many other types of cancers that occur in the lungs.
Let's look at it in detail.
Lung Cancer Stages
Between the onset of lung cancer and metastasizing, there are some progression stages that are necessary for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor can discuss with you more about the stage of your lung cancer after performing some tests.
The stages which classify the extent of the disease may differ with different types of cancers. The following are stages of the two common types of lung cancers:Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Stages
To decide the stage of non-small cell lung cancer, you have to go through some tests. The first stages of cancer, such as stages 1 and 2, signify that cancer has not spread much. On the other hand, stages 3 and 4 should mean that cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Stage 4 is the last stage and the critical one where the cancer cells have spread in the body massively.
Now, on to the NSCLC progressive stages:
Stage 1A: Cancer is contained in the lungs only about 3 cm across and has not yet spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 1B: Cancer has started to spread and is more extensive than 3cm across and still in the lungs. It might either be growing in the bronchi or pleura or could have collapsed part of the lung.
Stage 2A: In stage 2A, the cancer is now spreading to the nearby lymph nodes but still in its 3cm across.
Stage 2B: Cancer has enlarged a bit more than 3cm and has spread beyond the lymph nodes near the affected lung, or it has affected other areas close-by, such as the chest wall.
Stage 3A: In this stage, one of the following has happened:
- Cancer has progressed to spread and affect lymph nodes far from the diseased lung but still contained on that one side.
- Cancer has moved to the chest wall or the middle chest and remains in the lungs and the nearest lymph nodes.
Stage 3B: At this stage, either one among the four has happened:
- The cancer cells have metastasized to the lymph nodes on both sides of the chest or the collarbone lymph nodes.
- The tumor has increased to another part of the chest.
- Your lungs have multiple tumors.
- Your lungs contain some fluid containing the cancer cells.
Stage 4: The cancer cells have spread into both lungs, around the lungs, or other distant organs such as the liver.Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages
Like in all other types of cancers, doctors use the stage system to distinguish the disease severity levels. Small cell lung cancer uses a 2-stage system, unlike non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which uses a 4-stage system.
The two stages of small cell lung cancer are:
Stage 1 or Limited Stage: The limited stage has a high likelihood of treatment to cure. It is a stage whereby the cancer cells have not spread much. At this stage, the cancer cells should still be in the one lung where it started.
It is also considered a limited stage because cancer has slightly spread to a few areas near the lung. It includes the chest area, nearby lymph nodes, or the neck lymph nodes on the same side where cancer started.
This stage has a few cases, 1 in 3, since many patients realize they have cancer at the extensive stage. It is through medical examination when diagnosing another lung disease or any other that a doctor, by chance, detects a tumor.
Extensive Stage or Stage 2: Cancer cells may have spread to the other lung, in the lymph nodes of the other lung, or all over the body.
When the lungs' fluid has some cancer cells, it means that cancer has advanced to the extensive stage.Lung Cancer Symptoms
Most lung cancer cases do not have any symptoms in their early stages of cancer. With lung cancer, the symptoms often occur at the advanced stages of the disease. For other patients, they might experience false alarm with cancer-like symptoms and yet have a different illness.
The following are lung cancer symptoms:
- Chronic coughing sometimes containing blood or phlegm
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
During the severe stages of lung cancer, one can experience more symptoms, such as:
- Breathing difficulties
- Chest pain
- Bone pain
- Slurred speech
- Hormones imbalances
How Many Types of Lung Cancer are There?
Lung cancer has two main types that appear differently under a microscopic examination. The two are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).
Let's begin with non-small cell lung cancer.Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
NSCLC is the typical lung cancer that accounts for between 80 and 85 percent of all lung cancer cases. It has clear evidence of lung cancer in its early stage, which makes it easy for prognosis.
This type of lung cancer is further classified into other subtypes to narrow it to an exact type of cancer.
The following are the NSCLC main subtypes which start from other parts of the lungs but with similarities in their prognosis and treatment:
Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma is an NSCLC type in the lungs' mucus-producing cells.
The typical lung cancer type that can affect anyone who has never smoked would be adenocarcinoma of the lungs. Younger people between ages 20 and 46 who have lung cancer and have never smoked are likely to have adenocarcinoma.
Lung adenocarcinoma is lung cancer, which has more cases than other types. It has about 40 percent cases of all types of lung cancer.
Squamous cell carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for approximately 30 percent of all cancer cases of NSCLC type. Epidermoid carcinoma is another name for squamous cell carcinoma.
While lung adenocarcinoma is the leading lung cancer of non-small cell lung cancer, squamous cell carcinoma comes second.
Squamous cell carcinoma occurs by forming some tumors in the bronchi at the center of the lungs. It is common lung cancer that affects smokers and forms tumors that cause bloody-coughing at its early stage. It becomes easy to detect and diagnose it leading to timely lung cancer treatment.
While the early signs of squamous cell carcinoma may seem advantageous for its timely treatment, the fluid flow such as the blood or lymphatic fluid may contain cancer cells. The fluid can then spread the cells to other body parts very fast.
The blood and lymph fluid with cancer cells can flow and infect other nearby cells, such as the esophagus. Therefore, it is necessary to have early detection and treatment to prevent early metastasizing to other parts of the body.
Large cell (undifferentiated) Carcinoma (LCC)
Large cell carcinoma is another lung cancer in the category of non-small cell lung cancer. Primarily, LCC forms at the lungs' periphery even though it can occur anywhere else in the lungs.
Large cell carcinoma accounts for around 9 percent of all other lung cancers and is prevalent in men. It has the lowest cases compared to other different lung cancer types.
However, it is an aggressive type of lung carcinoma (lung cancer) that multiplies quickly to pose challenges in its treatment.
According to one study, LCC has a high volume doubling time (VDT) that ranges from 67 - 134 days. With such a high VDT of rapid clinical presentation, cancer can mimic progressive pneumonia leading to wrong diagnosis and improper treatment.
A VDT below 400 days signifies a high likelihood of cancer and above 500 has a tumor with a high chance of benignity.
The cells of large cell lung carcinoma appear large under a microscope. The cells are more extensive than either adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
Small cell lung cancer is sometimes called oat-cell carcinoma of the mediastinum because of its appearance under a microscope. It has minority cancer cases compared to NSCLC and accounts for about 10 to 15 percent of all bronchogenic carcinoma cases.
This type of lung cancer is mainly caused by tobacco smoke, and the more reason it is a bronchogenic carcinoma, which begins in the large airways or the bronchi. The SCLC cells are small, as the name suggests, but contrast the size by forming large tumors.
Small cell lung cancer has a low indication and, therefore, late or wrong treatment. The median survival is as low as two and up to four months for the untreated cases. For the treated patients, the survival rate of 5 years is about 5 percent.
Despite having minimal cases, small cell lung cancer is aggressive and spreads rapidly to other body parts.
A significant number of about 70 percent of SCLC patients, by the time they realize they have cancer, may have extensive cancer that has spread to other body parts.
The good news is that the small cells lung cancer responds well to 'chemo' and radiation therapy. But, the chances are that that cancer may recur later in life after treatment.Other Lung Cancer Types
Lung cancer is broad, with several different other types. Along with the mentioned types, which most are common, there are other rare types but worth mentioning.
Lung carcinoid: Lung carcinoid starts in the neuroendocrine cells. Apart from the lungs, the neuroendocrine cells are distributed in other body organs. The neuroendocrine is a joint name of neuro and endocrine.
The cells produce some neurotransmitters to regulate the lungs' functions, such as breathing and blood flow in the lungs. They also make hormones such as adrenaline that help to expand the airways for air passage.
When lung carcinoid attacks, it affects the nerve cells and endocrine cells. Lung carcinoid tumors can either be typical or atypical.
Typical lung carcinoid is common among the two, which takes about 9 out of 10 cases of carcinoid tumors. This type grows slowly and rarely spreads outside the lungs.
Atypical lung carcinoid is the rare type of the two, which accounts for the remaining 1 out of 10 lung carcinoid cases. However, atypical lung carcinoid tumors grow faster compared to typical and may spread outside the lungs.
Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is mainly associated with asbestos exposure over time. People working in asbestos industries are at a high risk of mesothelioma. Others who risk mesothelioma might be living in houses containing asbestos material such as painting, piping, flooring, or roofing.
Mesothelioma starts in the mesothelial cells of the lungs lining tissue.
Cancer to the lungs: Please note that this is cancer that starts elsewhere and spreads to the lungs. Some cancers such as breast, kidney, liver, or skin can spread quickly to the lungs. Such a tumor does not change its name because it has spread in the lungs. Instead, it retains its name.
For instance, the breast cancer that metastasizes to the lungs is still called breast cancer. Diagnosis and treatment of such cancer are different from cancer that originates in the lung.
What are the Causes of Lung Cancer
It might be challenging to point out what exactly causes each type or each case of lung cancer. But some factors can place you at risk of lung cancer. Other factors are direct contributors to cancer cells.
The following are some of the causes-and-risk factors of lung cancer:Smoking
One of the leading causes of lung cancer is smoking. A significant number of small cell lung cancer patients may have smoked sometimes in their lifetime or still smoking.
Smoking accounts for approximately 80 percent of lung cancer, and in the worse situation, it can lead to death. It can either be direct smoking or secondhand smoking.
Even though smoking is on the top list of lung cancer risk factors, many newly diagnosed cases are of people who have never smoked. In fact, up to 30,000 Americans who have never smoked get lung cancer every year.Hazardous Substances
Inhaling some hazardous substances that we live with every day, either knowingly or unknowingly, can cause lung cancer. Some of the substances are:
Asbestos: Asbestos is still in use in many products, such as in construction or automotive. The human body cannot expel asbestos fibers that lodge in the lungs after inhaling.
Instead, such fibers remain in the body for years and eventually begin interfering with normal cell production. The fiber may cause scar tissue or tumor, which later becomes malignant and then form a type of cancer called malignant mesothelioma,
Radon gas: Radon gas is another cause of lung cancer, coming second after cigarette smoking. Scientists estimate that radon causes over 20,000 deaths from lung cancer.
When some radioactive metals such as uranium and radium breakdown, they form some radioactive radon gas. The natural but dangerous gas comes from the ground or groundwater.
You are at significant risk of lung cancer if you smoke tobacco and live in an area with elevated radon levels. To know how risky your location is from radon gas, you can invite an expert to examine the level of radon at your home or work area.
Other hazardous substances: Other equally dangerous substances that can lead to lungs cancer are:
- Some petroleum products
Some people inherit their parents' DNA, which can influence abnormal cell growth, leading to cancer. DNA is some cell chemical that forms human genes. The DNA chemical controls the development and functioning of the cells.
We do DNA health testing, which could help detect this potential and many others. If you are concerned that you might have the possibility, then give us a call, and we can set up a DNA health assessment test.
Lung Cancer Diagnosis
According to the American Lung Association, only 16 percent of lung cancer patients have an early diagnosis. The rest have their diagnosis when lung cancer has metastasized to other organs and in the last stages. The five-year survival rate for cases of lung cancer in early diagnosis is about 56 percent.
Such information signifies that it is crucial to detect lung cancer early enough when still within the lungs. Early diagnosis's survival rate can even stretch to ten years, depending on the patient's healthy lifestyle and diet.
Once your doctor suspects that you have lung cancer after you go through a physical examination, it would be necessary for you to undergo more tests to rule out the suspicion.
Some of the diagnosis procedures your doctor may require you to undertake are:
Sputum cytology: A sputum examination called sputum cytology is performed on the cough phlegm to check whether it has any cancer cells.
Blood test: Testing your blood is necessary to rule out any other lung disease. Some lung cancers can mimic other lung diseases.
Chest X-Ray: An X-ray is necessary to distinguish the kind of tumor present in the lungs. The X-ray image would appear as a white-grayish lump at the site with cancer. Even though it might show cancer, it cannot give definite results, whether it is a cancer tumor or lung abscess. It might require more tests to differentiate the two.
CT scan: A CT scan gives a detailed image of the lungs compared to an X-ray. The scan takes about 20 minutes.
PET-CT scan: PET-CT stands for "positron emission tomography-computerized tomography." It is the examination that follows if the results of the CT scan shows active cancer at its initial stages. The PET-CT scan would then show the exact position of the active cancer cells.
Endobronchial Ultrasound Scan (EBUS): The EBUS procedure is a new procedure with high technology that uses both bronchoscopy and ultrasound scans. The ultrasound and the camera allows the doctor to see everything in the airways and the lymph nodes location, especially for a biopsy procedure, which comes next.
Biopsy: The next procedure would be a biopsy using a needle and the EBUS. The biopsy can be a minimally invasive procedure that would require sedation. A pathologist analyzes the lymph node tissue to know the cancer type and whether the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes.
Bone scan: A bone scan may follow the biopsy if the results of the biopsy were positive. The bone scan should reveal whether the cancer cells have spread to the bone tissue.Lung Cancer Treatment
Lung cancer treatment varies with the type of lung cancer and the progressive stage. The treatment can either be chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or combining all these treatments.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a procedure that involves some particular medicines, either some pills, intravenous, or both, to help shrink or exterminate the cancer cells.
Radiation therapy: The procedure uses high-energy rays, similar to an X-ray procedure, to destroy the cancer cells.
Surgery: A surgery is performed on the targeted area to cut out the cancer tissue.
Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a procedure that uses some drugs, either pills or intravenous medicine, to block cancer cells' growth or spread.
Cancer treatment is a sensitive and extensive procedure that would require different doctors with different specialties. The team of doctors may include:
- A pulmonologist, a lung expert
- Surgeon, a doctor who is to perform an operation
- Thoracic surgeon, a lung surgery specialist
- Medical oncologist, a doctor who conducts lung cancer chemotherapy
- Radiation oncologist, a doctor who performs cancer radiotherapy to treat lung cancer
Lung cancer is highly deadly.
The average survival rate of lung cancer is five years. Small cell lung cancer can last only one year, especially if undiagnosed early enough to start treatment.
While it is challenging to prevent all lung cancers, it is essential to avoid lung cancer risk factors to limit your chance of getting the disease.
Quit smoking, avoid cigarette smoke, live in a clean-air environment, and avoid exposure to radon, asbestos, and other cancer-causing substances. These are some of the lung cancer preventive measures you should exercise critically.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are crucial when you are keen on preventing lung cancer.
While following up on treatment procedures, most of them, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can cause severe side effects. Such treatments should have the support of a healthy diet, complementary or natural remedies.
You can discuss with us more about the complementary and natural remedies you need to support your health while undergoing your standard lung cancer treatment. Please reach out to our Natural Health Practitioner, Yvonne Perc, to begin our free virtual assessment and consultation.
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Island Healthworks offers in-person and virtual consultations for assessment of your specific needs, with health & lifestyle coaching, featuring the best of integrative natural health care. To book your consultation, please call 250-468-7685!
This article is intended for educational purposes and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any health complaints. We cannot take responsibility for your health care decisions. Our intent is only to offer health information to help you with your search for better health.