Lung cancer is a disease in which lung cells grow abnormally in an uncontrolled way.
The lungs are organs that allow you to breathe – to take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Lung cancer is a disease in which cells mutate (change) and begin to grow in an abnormal and uncontrolled way in the lungs. These cells are unable to function like healthy lung cells and as they grow they can form tumors and interfere with lung function.
Tobacco smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer.
The most common cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoking. Smokers are up to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer or die from lung cancer than non-smokers. Smoking is responsible for nearly 90% of lung cancer cases in the U.S., and about 80% of deaths from the disease.
Secondhand smoke – smoke inhaled from other people's tobacco smoking - also causes lung cancer. In the U.S. about 7,300 people who never smoked die from lung cancer due to secondhand smoke each year.
Other risk factors for lung cancer include exposure to radon gas, asbestos, arsenic, diesel fuel exhaust, and some forms of silica and chromium. In addition a personal or family history of lung cancer, and cancer survivors who have had radiation therapy on the chest are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer in the U.S.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. for both men and women. In 2015, an estimated 158,040 people in the U.S. died from lung cancer – that's more deaths than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined. The 5-year survival rate for lung cancer is 17.8%, lower than most other cancers, and more than half of patients die within one year of diagnosis.
Lung cancer is difficult to detect in the early stages. Many with the disease don't have any symptoms until later in the illness, and many symptoms of lung cancer are similar to pneumonia, colds, and allergies. By the time many patients experience symptoms of concern the disease has spread to other organs in the body (metastasized).
Quitting smoking repairs damage that leads to lung cancer.
Because the majority of cases of lung cancer are due to smoking, lung cancer is the most preventable type of cancer death in the world. In as little as 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting smoking, lung function increases. From 1 to 9 months after you quit, your coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Your lungs begin to regain normal function. At 10 years after quitting, the risk from dying from lung cancer drops to about half that of a smoker.
A 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that quitting smoking before age 40 reduces the chance of premature death from any smoking related disease by 90%.
What is stridor?
Stridor is noisy, high pitched, harsh breathing. It can be wheezing or a vibrating due to the upper airway being blocked. It typically occurs while inhaling, but it can also occur when exhaling. Stridor is not an illness in itself, but rather a symptom of an underlying problem, and it can be a sign of lung cancer in the chest.
In addition to stridor, what are some other lung cancer symptoms?
One reason lung cancer is so deadly is because patients do not experience any symptoms until later in the disease. This is why it is important to report any unusual symptoms or symptoms of concern to your doctor, because treatments for lung cancer are more effective when the cancer is diagnosed at earlier stages. Often, these symptoms can be due to other illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia, which need to be ruled out. In addition to stridor, symptoms of lung cancer in the chest include:
- Persistent or severe cough
- Coughing up phlegm or mucus with blood
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain that gets worse with coughing, deep breathing, or laughing
- Shortness of breath
- Hoarseness or other voice changes
- Weakness or fatigue
- Recurrent or persistent lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Lung cancer staging is the process of finding out how much cancer is in the body.
Staging of cancer refers to the process of finding out how much cancer exists in a person and where in the body it is located. This tells the doctor where the primary (main) tumor is located, how big it is, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body or the lymph nodes (metastasized).
Staging information helps doctors plan treatment, and to predict the chance of recurrence or recovery. This is because cancers in the same stage often have a similar prognosis and may be treated the same way. Knowing the cancer stage allows all healthcare providers involved in a person's treatment to understand the extent of a patient's cancer.
There are ________ stages of lung cancer.
- Occult stage: Cancer cells are found in the mucus, but there is no tumor found on imaging tests.
- Stage 0: Also called carcinoma in situ, the cancer is very small in size and has not spread to deep lung tissue.
- Stage I: The cancer is present in lung tissue but has not spread to lymph nodes.
- Stage II: The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or into the chest wall.
- Stage III: Cancer is present in the lung, and has spread to lymph nodes and nearby organs such as the heart, esophagus, and windpipe (trachea).
- Stage IIIA: The cancer has only spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as where the cancer started.
- Stage IIIB: The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest, or above the collarbone.
Are there treatments for lung cancer?
There are several different ways to treat lung cancer, depending on the type of lung cancer and stage, the side effects of treatment, and the patient's overall health. Non-small cell lung cancers are treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy or a combination treatments. The main treatments used for people with small cell lung cancer include chemotherapy, radiation, and rarely, surgery.
- Surgery: Involves complete removal of the affected lung tumor, and surrounding tissue (margins)
- Radiation therapy: Uses high energy X-rays or other particles to kill cancer cells
- Chemotherapy: Involves use of drugs that can be taken in pill form or intravenously to kill cancer cells and shrink or destroy the tumor
- Targeted therapy: Uses medication to specifically target the genes, proteins, or tissue that contributes to the cancer cell's survival. It blocks the growth of cancer cells while leaving most of the healthy cells alone.
- Immunotherapy (biologic therapy): Boosts the body's own immune system to help fight the cancer.
Lung cancer occurs most often in people 65 and older.
About two-thirds of people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older. The average age of a person diagnosed with lung cancer is 70. About 10% of lung cancers occur in people younger than age 50, and fewer than 2% of those diagnosed are younger than 45.
Smoking is the main risk factor for lung cancer, and a large number of cases of lung cancer could be prevented if people did not smoke.
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