Currently, over 500,000 patients in the United States have been diagnosed with lung cancer. The third most common form of cancer, lung cancer originates in the lungs and can spread depending on the type. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, you might be full of questions and worries about the future. How will this affect my life? What does this impact my health? What are my next steps?
It is very common to seek answers to all of these questions and more. The first step to understanding the disease is knowing the basis behind why it occurs.
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Lung cancer develops when cancerous cells form within the lungs. These abnormal cells undergo mutations that alter their natural functions, life and death cycles, and more. This can result in the rapid production of similar cells, as there is nothing left to properly regulate the process of cell division. The cells that are produced resemble the first abnormal cell in terms of function and shape.
Once the cancerous cells have replicated within the lungs, they can begin to form tumors by clumping together in one location. Depending on the type of lung cancer, the cells may stay localized to the lungs or spread to nearby regions, such as the lymph nodes. There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell and non-small cell lung cancer.
Also known as SCLC, small cell lung cancer is very rare and only makes up about 15% of current cases. This disease is defined by rapid metastasis, a term that describes the spread of cancer throughout the body. This form of cancer is typically diagnosed only after it has spread because the cells often metastasize too quickly to show visible symptoms in the early stages.
The main risk factor identified for SCLC is tobacco smoke, a product of cigarette, pipe, and cigar smoking. Your risk can increase even from inhaling secondhand smoke while someone sitting nearby is smoking.
NSCLC accounts for most diagnosed lung cancer cases in the United States. There are three types of this cancer, each defined by the type of cancerous cells within your lungs. The first type, adenocarcinoma, can grow rapidly or slowly depending on if your cancer has begun to spread. These cells typically secrete substances, such as mucus, and can be found in the outermost regions of the lungs.
The second type, squamous cell carcinoma, originates from flat cells (squamous cells) within the inner lining of the lungs. This form of cancer is typically discovered in one of the many airways of the lung. The last type, large cell carcinoma, can originate in any region of the lungs and spread rapidly. This cancer is difficult to treat because it often spreads far from the lungs before it is detected.
Many risk factors can increase your chances of developing NSCLC, including:
Diagnosing lung cancer is tricky and typically depends on the type and stage. If your condition is caught during its early stages, it is more likely to be successfully treated than if it was diagnosed after it had spread. If you have a family history of lung cancer or suspect that you may have developed this condition due to frequent smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke, here are some symptoms to look out for:
Misdiagnoses are common before lung cancer is detected because some of these symptoms may seem as though they are linked to other medical conditions, such as pneumonia. If you experience any of these symptoms and have risk factors that may increase your chances of developing lung cancer, it is best to consult with your physician right away.
After a diagnosis, you will be given an outline of treatment options based on your type of cancer and stage. Common treatments for lung cancer include chemotherapy, medications, surgery, and radiation therapy. More advanced stages are usually given a combination of these treatments, while cancer in its early stages may be treated with medications and chemotherapy.
The type of lung cancer with the highest treatment success rate is SCLC in its early stages. Once this form of cancer is detected, it can be treated effectively with a little chance of relapse. If you have been diagnosed with this, your chances of being cured are as high as 85%!
The best thing you can do to eliminate any risk factors for developing lung cancer is to alter your harmful habits. You can do this by reducing the amount of time spent around individuals who smoke, switching to a less harmful method of smoking, or simply stop smoking. In addition, visiting your doctor regularly can provide an accurate assessment of your health and determine what changes need to be made to ensure that cancer does not develop.
During these times, your health is the top priority, and should you ever need any type of help, there are many people willing to lend a hand. From your doctor, to support groups, to even family and friends, you are never alone.
When facing challenges in life, we find that having a support group to fall back on often makes the experience less harsh. This applies in nearly every situation, regardless of the specifics. While there is no sure way to prevent the development of lung cancer, there are plenty of ways to cope with the disease. As with any form of cancer, the most important thing you can do is to keep a note of any early symptoms. Early diagnosis is often vital to successful treatment.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author. This content has not been paid for by any advertiser nor does Answer.Expert recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. This article is provided for informational purposes only. Answer.Expert does not provide professional advice of any kind. You should seek guidance from your medical, financial, legal, or other professional representative with any questions you many have about your personal situation.