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A comprehensive understanding of lung cancer and its progression

A comprehensive understanding of lung cancer and its progression

Lung Cancer has become one of the more commonly diagnosed types of respiratory disorders affecting men and women of all ages. It is mainly divided into two subtypes: small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). There are many distinct carcinomas diagnosed as a subtype of NSCLC cases with varying levels of severity. Nearly 83% of the cases diagnosed are NSCLC, with only 13% affecting the rest of the patients at risk.

Risk factors and causes
There are many direct and indirect trigger factors that increase the risk of lung cancer.

Exposure to pollutant
Certain unhealthy lifestyle habits cause the lungs to absorb the most dangerous types of carcinogens found in pollutants. Prolonged exposure damages lung tissue and affects its ability to absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Even secondhand exposure to these pollutants is very risky, especially among older adults already dealing with respiratory issues.

Industrial chemicals
Those working in industrial units constantly exposed to asbestos are also at an elevated risk of developing lung cancer. Asbestos is a type of material commonly found in mines, mills, and textile plants that utilize chemicals to produce goods. Even at shipyards, this compound is used to make the insulation during the construction of the ship. Asbestos is a common home insulation used to coat walls and ceilings and prevent fire hazards. In older homes, deterioration and renovation may release old asbestos into the atmosphere. Inhaling this chemical compound directly is very harmful to lung health. Apart from asbestos, uranium, arsenic, nickel, chromium, vinyl, cadmium, and even mustard gas are dangerous carcinogen factors that increase the risk of cancer.

Most common and noticeable symptoms
Although most types of respiratory disorders exhibit the following symptoms, there are some clear indicators of developing lung cancer. These symptoms develop at a low undetectable pace and are intense only in the advanced stages of the condition.

A normal cough develops as a mild discomfort but soon progresses into a persistent cough triggered at frequent intervals.
Frequent chest infections that don’t respond well to treatment and may even progress into complications like pneumonia or bronchitis.
Shortness of breath is caused by cancer cells growing and blocking major airways in the lungs affecting the lung’s capacity to expand while inhaling and contract while exhaling.
Hemoptysis, commonly referred to as bleeding in the lungs, is a known risk and results in a person coughing out blood in the advanced stages of cancer.
Pain due to cancer spreading to the lining of the lungs or when spreading to any bone or other organs in the vicinity.
Fluid buildup in the chest is another sign of advanced cancer, which indicates lung tissue in the affected area has been compromised.
Headaches, fatigue, and weight loss without any changes in daily nutrition are also common discomforts experienced when cancer starts to spread.
Changes in voice resulting in a hoarse unpleasant sound indicate the spread of cancer growth to vital organs in the respiratory and esophageal tract.

Lung cancers can even trigger hormonal imbalances among some patients and cause muscle weakness, nausea, and vomiting, affect blood sugar and blood pressure, and even lead to cognitive problems. At any point, if the symptoms become unbearable or trigger associated health complications, immediate medical attention is advisable. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment improve the outlook for managing cancer in the long term.

Diagnosis and treatment
Doctors perform a number of imaging tests, conduct cytology, and do a biopsy to assess the condition of the lungs to confirm the prevalence of cancer tissue. An X-Ray or CT scan can only reveal the smaller lesions in lung tissue. In addition, the sputum produced while experiencing respiratory discomforts will reveal any cancer cells in the tissue. A tissue biopsy will further confirm the presence and progression of lung cancer. To determine the extent and spread post metastasis, doctors additionally advise multiple Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resource Imaging (MRI), and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans to assess the different types of organs affected in the process.

Treatment of SCLC and NSCLC conditions includes a combination of prescriptions, changes in daily nutrition, and lifestyle habits to manage discomforts better. There is no cure for cancer. So, cancer progression can only be managed to improve the long-term outlook. Thoracic surgeons, oncologists, and pulmonologists will come up with a treatment plan depending on the progression and extent of metastasis. Treatment will also vary depending on the location of cancer, type, personal preferences, and the patient’s ability to undergo treatment. Once all parameters are assessed, doctors suggest a combination of radiation, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or surgery to address the problem. Note that no two treatments will be the same, and results will vary solely depending on their effectiveness.