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Lung Cancer

What is Lung Cancer ?

Lung cancer is a cancer of the lungs characterized by the presence of malignant tumours. Most commonly it is bronchogenic carcinoma (about 90%). Lung cancer is the most lethal of cancers worldwide, causing up to 3 million deaths annually.

There are many types of lung cancer, but most can be categorized into two basic types, "small cell" and "non-small cell." Small cell lung cancer is generally faster growing than non-small cell, but more likely to respond to chemotherapy.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women. It claims more lives than colon, prostate, lymph and breast cancer combined.

Causes of Lung Cancer

The exact cause of lung cancer remains unclear. But tobacco smoke is the primary cause of lung cancer. Although nonsmokers can get lung cancer, the risk is about 10 times greater for smokers and is also increased by the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Othet risk factors include exposure to carcinogenic and industrial air pollutants (asbestos, arsenic, chromium, radioactive dust).

Signs & Symptoms of Lung Cancer

The symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Cough
  • Bloody sputum
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs)
  • Hoarseness that lasts more than two weeks
  • Fever for unknown reason

Diagnostic Tests

Chest X-rays usually show an advanced lesion and can detect a lesion up to 2 years before signs and symptoms appear. Findings may indicate tumor size and location.

Cytologic sputum analysis, which is 75 % reliable,requires a sputum specimen expectorated from the lungs and tracheobronchial tree, not from postnasal secretions or saliva.

Bronchoscopy can identify the tumor site. Bronchoscopic washings provide material for cytologic and histologic study. The flexible fiberoptic bronchoscope increases test effectiveness.

Needle biopsy of the lungs relies on biplanar fluoroscopic visual control to locate peripheral tumors before withdrawing a tissue specimen for analysis. This procedure allows a firm diagnosis in 80% of patients.

Tissue biopsy of metastatic sites (including supraclavicular and mediastinal nodes and pleura) helps to assess disease extent. Based on histologic findings, staging determines the disease's extent and prognosis and helps direct treatment.

Thoracentesis allows chemical and cytologic examination of pleural fluid.

Additional studies include chest tomography, bronchography, esophagography, and angiocardiography (contrast studies of bronchial tree, esophagus, and cardiovascular tissues). Tests to detect metastasis include a bone scan (abnormal findings may lead to a bone marrow biopsy. which is typically recommended in patients with small-cell carcinoma); a computed tomography scan of the brain; liver function studies; and gallium scans of the liver and spleen.


The treatment depends upon the stage of the cancer, there are many types pf treatment like radiation therapy, combinations of surgery, and chemotherapy improve the prognosis and prolong patient survival.

In some cases where a patient with limited stage disease has only one small tumor, the tumor will be surgically removed, followed by chemotherapy. However, very few patients with small cell lung cancer are candidates for surgery.

Prevention Tips

The best known way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke. If you already smoke, quitting now can reduce your risk — even if you've smoked for years.

These measures also can help prevent lung cancer:

  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat a healthy and nutritional diet.

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