Vital Facts about Lung Cancer, Its Diagnosis and Treatment
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in one or both lungs. As they grow, abnormal cells can form tumors and impede lung function. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S., claiming more human lives than prostate, colon and breast cancer combined.
Know the risk factors for lung cancer
The highest risk factor for lung cancer is smoking tobacco, whether conventional cigarettes or e-cigarettes. Nearly 87% of all lung cancers in the U.S. are caused by smoking. However, quitting smoking helps to reduce that risk.
But even if you’ve never smoked, you’ve likely been exposed to secondhand smoke, which also heightens your level of risk. According to the Surgeon General’s Report, nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.
Other key risk factors for lung cancer include:
- Exposure to asbestos, radon, radiation and industrial substances such as arsenic, uranium, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline and diesel exhaust
- Scarring on the lung from tuberculosis
- Family history of lung cancer
- Certain genetic mutations
Diagnosing lung cancer
Detecting lung cancer begins with a physical examination. If the results raise concerns, your RCCA physician will order laboratory tests and imaging tests. The following imaging tests can be used in tandem to expose the cancer’s location and its level of metabolic activity.
- CT (computed tomography) can detect lesions on the lung that are often not visible with X-ray
- PET (positron-emission tomography) reveals cancer-cell activity. Also features CT to reveal anatomic structure.
Be aware of lung cancer signs and symptoms
Some symptoms of lung cancer can be traced to conditions like bronchitis. Still, it is crucial to report any unusual physical feelings to your doctor. The signs of lung cancer can take years to develop, so they may not appear until the disease is advanced. Lung cancer that starts in the chest can reveal itself through the following symptoms:
- Persistent or intense coughing
- Pain in the chest, shoulder or back not caused by coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in the voice/hoarseness
- Harsh sounds with breathing (stridor)
- Recurrent bronchitis or pneumonia
- Coughing up blood, or blood-tinged phlegm or mucus
If lung cancer spreads to other areas of the lungs and to other parts of the body, you may experience:
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Headaches, bone or joint pain
- Bone fractures not related to injury
- Unsteady gait or memory loss
- Neck or facial swelling
- Blood clots
The types of lung cancer
There are three main types of lung cancer:
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for roughly 85 percent of lung cancers. Its subtypes are squamous cell carcinoma (accounts for 25 percent of all lung cancers), adenocarcinoma (the most common lung cancer among American adults) and large-cell carcinoma.
- Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for the majority of remaining 15 percent of lung cancers in the U.S. Although this type of tumor grows more quickly than NSCLC tumors, SCLC is often more responsive to chemotherapy.
- Lung carcinoid tumor, a slow growing cancer type, rarely spreads. Lung carcinoid tumors make up less than five percent of all lung cancers.
Leading-edge therapies and whole-person support to treat lung cancer
At RCCA, we provide comprehensive, advanced treatments that are right for you. This could entail combining drugs with other therapies or recommending participation in a clinical trial to maximize your chance for remission.. We also offer mind/body support in the forms of nutritional and spiritual counseling, yoga and more.
Our innovative treatments, testing and care include:
- Targeted Therapy
- Radiation Therapy
- Clinical Trials
- Genetic Testing
- Palliative Care
- Integrative Care
RCCA is here for you in every possible way
A cancer diagnosis is life-changing. It is vital to have the highest levels of medical, emotional and physical support on your side. At RCCA, our dedicated oncologists and advanced practice nurses are not only specialized and highly trained, they know how to provide hope and compassionate, individualized care. We also have a large, professional staff of caring people who strive to help you overcome every challenge you or your family may face during your journey.