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All About Lung Cancer

By DMG Integrated Oncology Program

Cancer, in any form, can be a scary diagnosis to hear. Educating yourself about the condition, what treatments are available, and how to help prevent cancer from occurring is a smart place to start.

Defining Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a cancer with its primary origin in the lung tissue. Cancer occurs when your cells begin to divide abnormally and form tumors in certain areas of the body.

How does it happen?

Primarily, lung cancer occurs in people who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke (breathing in the fumes from exhaled cigarette smoke). There are certain cases where lung cancer occurs for no specified reason.

Symptoms

Lung cancer usually doesn’t have any symptoms in the early stages. In the later stages, an individual with lung cancer may experience: a new cough that doesn’t go away, changes in a chronic cough (or “smoker’s cough”), coughing up any amount of blood, shortness of breath, wheezing, hoarseness, losing weight without trying, bone pain and headache.

Different Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer presents itself in two general forms: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer usually only occurs in heavy smokers and is less common than non-small cell lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer covers several types of lung cancer. The most common type of non-small cell lung cancer is adenocarcinoma; other examples include cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma.

Lung Cancer Detection

There are a variety of ways to check for lung cancer. In healthy individuals, a computerized tomography (CT) scan looks for lung cancer. If you’re older than 55 and smoke or used to smoke, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of a low-dose CT scan.

If there is any reason to suspect lung cancer, there are many tests that can detect cancerous cells. An X-ray may reveal an abnormal mass or a CT scan can reveal small lesions in your lungs that could be signs of lung cancer.

Eligible patients should:

  • Be between 55 and 80 years of age
  • Have a history of smoking within the last 15 years
  • Have no previous diagnosis of lung cancer
  • Have NOT had a chest CT within 18 months before appointment
  • Not have a history of hemoptysis (coughing up blood) or unexplained weight loss of more than 15 lbs. in the preceding year

 

Treatment Options

There are a variety of treatment options when it comes to lung cancer. Surgery may be needed to remove a tumor, a lobe of the lung and in some cases, the entire lung itself. In addition, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted drug therapy can be employed in management of lung cancers.

Individuals with lung cancer may find that they suffer from shortness of breath. If you feel short of breath at home, try to relax by managing fear. Try listening to music, imagining your favorite vacation spot, meditate, or say a prayer to calm yourself down. Also focus on your breathing. Focus on moving the muscles around your diaphragm, breathe through pursed lips, and pace your breath with your activities. Leaning forward or moving into another comfortable position may help too. You may have to reprioritize some activities if you are becoming tired and short of breath easily. Eliminate any nonessential tasks from your day to save your energy for what’s most important.

Reduce Your Risk

You can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer by:

  • Not smoking or quitting if you do smoke
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Avoid carcinogens at work
  • Test your home for radon
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Try to exercise most days of the week

If you are having trouble breathing, call your doctor right away. If you are a smoker and looking to quit, talk to our smoking cessation counselor by calling 630-871-6699 ext. 26619. 


Topics and Subtopics: Cancer

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Oncology Pulmonary Medicine
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