Lung cancer is considered to be the most deadly cancer. More people die from lung cancer each year than from breast, colorectal and prostate cancer combined. About 1 in 13 men and 1 in 16 women are treated for lung cancer at some point in their life. Unfortunately, more than two-thirds of all lung cancer patients are diagnosed at a late stage when tumors are present in more than one site in the body. Despite recent advances, five-year survival rates for lung cancer are still poor when compared with other common cancers. More than half of the people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed if not treated appropriately; hence, lung cancer is considered the most deadly cancer.
What are the common causes of cancer?
Cancer arises from the cancer cells which are abnormal cells that grow in an uncontrolled and aggressive manner. It is a multistage process that generally progresses from a precancerous lesion to aggressive cancer.
Below are few common causes of cancer:
- Genetic mutation
- Family history
- Exposure to ultraviolet and ionizing radiation on multiple occasions
- Exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing substances), for example, asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin (a food contaminant) and arsenic
- Infections from certain viruses (human papillomavirus and hepatitis B virus) are also considered a trigger for developing cancers.
- Unhealthy diet (processed red meat and low-fiber high-fat food) and lack of physical activity
Can an individual survive from cancer?
If identified early, cancer is more likely to respond to effective treatment and can result in a greater probability of surviving. Significant improvements can be made in the lives of cancer patients by detecting cancer early and avoiding delays in care. Early screening aims to identify individuals with abnormalities suggestive of specific cancer or precancer who have not developed any symptoms and can be referred promptly for diagnosis and treatment. For example, a 50-year patient who is a heavy smoker should have regular checkups and if necessary, should undergo computed tomography (CT) scan of the lung every six months to detect any early symptom of lung cancer.
How is cancer treated?
The important goal of cancer treatment is to achieve maximum cure and allow the person to live a normal life. If a cure is not possible, treatments may be used to shrink the cells or slow the growth of cancer to allow patient to live symptom free for as long as possible.
Common cancer treatments include:
Primary treatment: Primary treatment is used to remove cancer from your body or kill all the cancer cells.
- Surgery is primary cancer treatment for the most types of cancers.
- Patient may also receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy if cancer cells are sensitive to these treatments.
Adjuvant treatment: The goal of adjuvant therapy is to kill any cancer cell that may remain after primary treatment. It is aimed to reduce the chance of recurrence.
- Common adjuvant therapies include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy.
- Neoadjuvant therapy is similar, but it is used before the primary treatment to make the primary treatment easier or more effective.
Palliative treatment: Palliative treatments relieve side effects of treatment and make the pain and cancer symptoms bearable. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy can all be used as palliative treatment. Palliative treatment can be used at the same time as other treatments. They are more important in inoperable cancers.
What are the advancements in cancer treatment?
Apart from the above common treatments, patients may also be treated with advanced treatments which include:
- Immunotherapy to treat cancer: Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system to recognize the cancer cells and destroy them.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that targets the specific proteins found only on cancer cells. It slows down the cancer multiplication. These cells do not affect normal cells and hence have fewer side effects.
- Stem cell transplant: Stem cell transplants are procedures that use stem cells to regenerate diseased or compromised organs.
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