Lung cancer – Essential things to know

Lung cancer – Essential things to know

Without a doubt, our lungs are one of the most vital organs in our body. Located in the chest cavity, they help us breathe. Unfortunately, even our lungs can get affected by cancer, which can be life-threatening. Like any other cancer, it develops when the cells in the organ mutate and spread. In this article, learn about the essential factors of lung cancer: its types, causes, symptoms, treatments, and more.

Cancer originating in the lungs is categorized into small-cell and non-small cell lung cancer. Each behaves differently in terms of growth and spread.

Small-cell lung cancer
As the name suggests, cancerous cells in small-cell lung cancer appear tiny and round under a microscope. These cells spread aggressively in most cases, but it is the rarer of the two.

Non-small-cell lung cancer
Cancerous cells in non-small-cell lung cancer are larger. The disease is more prevalent; about 80% of cases are diagnosed with this form.

Lung cancer—one of the most prevalent cancers worldwide—can be triggered for the following reasons.

Inhaling radioactive gas
Those continuously exposed to radioactive gases, which exist naturally in the soil, are at a greater risk of the disease. The gas moves from the soil into buildings through cracks and gaps in the walls. Exposure to radioactive gas can damage the lungs and result in cell mutation.

Inhaling harmful chemicals
Lung cancer is a common disease in people who work with elements like asbestos, cadmium, arsenic, nickel, and other petroleum products. Inhaling these chemicals every day increases the risk.

People who have a history of lung cancer in their families are more likely to develop the disease. According to research, somatic mutations in the TP53, EGFR, and KRAS genes are common in lung cancer.

Those with the condition may experience the following signs and symptoms.

Breathing troubles
Patients experience breathing trouble if malignant cells obstruct the airways. Lung cancer can also cause fluid accumulation in the lungs, making it challenging to expand when inhaling oxygen.

Coughing up blood
Coughing up blood (also called hemoptysis) is one of the most prevalent symptoms. In advanced stages, the tumor leads to bleeding in the airway, which, in turn, results in the presence of blood when coughing.

As lung cancer progresses, it can spread to other organs, such as the bones, resulting in pain in that area. Headaches, numbness in the arms or legs, and balance problems are also symptoms one shouldn’t ignore.

Pleural effusion
Lung cancer can cause fluid accumulation in the pleural space (a cavity between the lungs, under the chest wall), causing shortness of breath. Doctors can drain this fluid from the chest with the help of a needle to provide relief.

Treatment depends on the health, form, and stage of lung cancer, besides other factors. Here are a few popular options.

Doctors remove a portion of the affected lung using surgery. If cancer cells remain, doctors recommend chemotherapy and radiotherapy, among other forms of treatment.

Radiation therapy
Doctors use high-power energy beams like X-rays and protons to destroy malignant cells. Radiation therapy also helps relieve pain in advanced lung cancer.

It involves administering chemotherapy treatments intravenously or orally to kill cancer cells. The treatment may take a couple of weeks or months as per the situation. Doctors sometimes recommend chemotherapy before surgery to reduce the tumor’s size for easy removal.

It involves activating the body’s disease-fighting immune cells to help them fight the disease. Immunotherapy is mostly used in the advanced stages where cancer has spread to other organs.

Foods to eat
While treatment is a must, eating certain foods can contribute to the recovery.

Fruits like apples and pears contain phloretin, a phytochemical that aids in fighting cancer cells. Phloretin is also known to lower fibrosis in the lungs.

Fatty fish like mackerel, herring, and salmon are rich in vitamin D. This vitamin helps inhibit the replication of lung cancer cells besides fighting various illnesses.

Raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries prove helpful in the fight against lung cancer. These berries are rich in anthocyanins, compounds that help prevent the formation of blood clots—a risk factor for lung cancer.