Lung cancer is a disease of uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. This growth may lead to metastasis, which is the invasion of adjacent tissue and infiltration beyond the lungs. The vast majority of primary lung cancers are carcinomas of the lung, derived from epithelial cells. Lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer-related death in men and the second most common in women (after breast cancer). The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, coughing (including coughing up blood), and weight loss. The main types of lung cancer are small cell lung carcinoma and non-small cell lung carcinoma. This distinction is important, because the treatment varies; non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is sometimes treated with surgery, while small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) usually responds better to chemotherapy and radiation. The most common cause of lung cancer is long-term exposure to tobacco smoke. The occurrence of lung cancer in nonsmokers, who account for as many as 15% of cases, is often attributed to a combination of genetic factors, radon gas, asbestos, and air pollution, including second hand smoke. Lung cancer may be seen on chest radiograph and computed tomography (CT scan). The diagnosis is confirmed with a biopsy. This is usually performed via bronchoscopy or CT-guided biopsy. Treatment and prognosis depend upon the histological type of cancer, the stage (degree of spread), and the patient's performance status. Possible treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. With treatment, the five-year survival rate is 14%.
1. Persistent cough or hoarseness 2. Deep chest pain when you cough or laugh 3. Shortness of breath or wheezing 4. Reddened, rust-colored, or bloody phlegm 5. Getting recurrent infections, like pneumonia or bronchitis 6. Thickened, painful fingertips (caused by abnormal bone growth) 7. Weight loss or lack of appetite 8. Abnormal breast growth in men 9. Mood swings, depression, or lethargy in someone who hasn’t been depressed before 10. Sudden onset of irritability, aggression, and temper; could be characterized as “everything gets to him.”
Many of these symptoms sound vague, or could indicate a number of other conditions or other cancers. But trust your gut; if you or someone you love is feeling or behaving in a way that’s out of character, see the doctor about it. In the case of lung cancer, this is particularly important for anyone with a history of smoking.
My Comment & References
In early July, Danish researchers published a new study, showing many cases in which cancer patients, particularly those with lung cancer–discovered they had a tumor after being referred for psychiatric care. The study, published in the June 25th issue of the International Journal of Cancer, got almost no attention. But it was actually an important finding because it gives us a new way to look at one of the hot issues in cancer treatment right now, which is the problem of lung cancer going undiagnosed until it’s well advanced and nearly impossible to cure.
The study, which followed 4,320,623 people in Denmark for ten years, showed that when people ages 50 to 64 were referred to a psychiatrist for the first time in their lives, the reason often turned out to be an undetected malignancy.
“Our study illustrates the importance of making a thorough physical examination of patients with first-time psychiatric symptoms,” lead author Michael E. Benros, MD, was quoted as saying. According to Benros, the overall cancer incidence was highest in those over 50 years of age admitted with a first-time mood disorder–one out of 54 patients turned out to have a malignant cancer diagnosed within the first year. Among those 50 to 64, the overall incidence of cancer was increased almost four fold, and the incidence of brain tumors was increased 37 times.
One of the most common–and saddest stories–I hear is from those with non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common kind and often isn’t diagnosed until it’s Stage 3 or 4. A common site for this type of lung cancer to metastasize, or spread, is to the brain