Lung cancer

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is often thought of as the most lethal form of cancer, and it is the leading cause of cancer death in the western world.

There are two types of lung cancer; small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is more common and its subtypes are; squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.

What are the symptoms?

There are many lung cancer symptoms, however, the most common ones are:

  • Persistent cough.
  • Coughing with blood or blood-streaked sputum.
  • Chest pain that worsens when breathing deeply, coughing, or laughing.
  • Tiredness or exhaustion.
  • Hoarseness.   
  • Weight loss.

What causes it?

The main cause of lung cancer is smoking. However, as with other types of cancer, the cause may be multifactorial and many factors could cause it to develop. The main risk factors are: 

  • Genetic condition.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Active and passive smoking.

A risk factor is not necessarily a cause. It may happen that some people who have all the risk factors are never affected by lung cancer but others who have no risk factors develop it.   

How can it be prevented?

The best way to reduce the risk is to not smoke and also avoid second hand smoke. The length of time as a smoker is a higher risk factor compared to the quantity of cigarettes smoked daily. Quitting smoking at any age can greatly reduce the risk of developing lung cancer, more so than just reducing the amount smoked.

What is the treatment?  

There are different treatments, some involve surgery and some don’t.

There are benefits to using a combination of different treatments, such as surgical, chemotherapeutic, and radiotherapeutic treatments. Quite often treatment will involve chemotherapy and radiotherapy but avoid surgery.  

Early diagnosis is important for a better prognosis, when the cancer is only a few centimetres big. In these cases, the tumour can be removed and survival and prognosis significantly improve.