Lung Cancer
Lung Cancer

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs. Your lungs are two spongy organs in your chest that take in oxygen when you inhale and release carbon dioxide when you exhale.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women. Lung cancer claims more lives each year than do colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers combined.
Cigarette smoking causes most lung cancers. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk of lung cancer. High levels of pollution, radiation and asbestos exposure may also increase risk.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A cough that doesn't go away and gets worse over time.
  • Constant chest pain.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness.
  • Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis.
  • Swelling of the neck and face.
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss.
  • Fatigue.

Risk factors

  • A theorized cause is scar tissue in the lungs formed from diseases or conditions such as tuberculosis or scleroderma.
  • Smoking.
  • Second hand smoke.
  • Genetics.
  • Uranium dust asbestos or radon exposure.

Types of lung cancer

There are three main types of lung cancer. Knowing which type you have is important because it affects your treatment options and your outlook (prognosis). If you aren’t sure which type of lung cancer you have, ask your doctor so you can get the right information.

A.    Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

This is the most common type of lung cancer. About 85% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancers.

1. Adenocarcinom: 40%

  • Most common type of lung cancer.
  • Starts along outer edges of lungs in the smaller airways.
  • Symptoms are not easily detected, usually discovered after it has spread to the lymph nodes and other organs.
  • More common in women.
  • Survival prognosis is poor.
2. Squamous cell carcinoma: 30%

  • Start in the cells of the center of the bronchi.
  • Slow growing cancer.
  • Does not grow outside of the lung.
  • More common in women.
  • Survival prognosis is good if caught early.
3. Large cell carcinoma: 10-15%

  • Least common type of lung cancer.
  • Originates in the outer edges of the lungs.
  • Spreads outside of the lungs.
  • Survival prognosis is poor when advanced.

B.    Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer is also called oat cell cancer. About 10%-15% of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers:

  • Originates in the large, central bronchi.
  • Spreads fast, within 3 months numerous symptoms present.
  • In many cases the cancer has already metastasized before it is discovered.
  • Survival prognosis is very poor.

C.    Lung Carcinoid Tumor

Fewer than 5% of lung cancers are lung carcinoid tumors. They are also sometimes called lung neuroendocrine tumors. Most of these tumors grow slowly and rarely spread.

How is lung cancer developed?

Just like any cancer. If caught in the early stages, lung cancer can be cured. It is also one of few types of cancer with a high preventive rate.

Stage 1: cancerous cells are only in the lung(s).
Stage 2+3: cancerous cells have possible spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 4: cancerous cells have spread to other organs of the body.

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

There’s reason to think that you may have lung cancer, your doctor can order a number of tests to look for cancerous cells and to rule out other conditions. In order to diagnose lung cancer, your doctor may recommend:

  • Imaging tests. An X-ray image of your lungs may reveal an abnormal mass or nodule. A CT scan can reveal small lesions in your lungs that might not be detected on an X-ray.
  • Sputum cytology. If you have a cough and are producing sputum, looking at the sputum under the microscope can sometimes reveal the presence of lung cancer cells.
  • Tissue sample (biopsy). A sample of abnormal cells may be removed in a procedure called a biopsy.

What are the Treatments of lung cancer?

You and your doctor choose a cancer treatment plan based on a number of factors, such as your overall health, the type and stage of your cancer, and your preferences. Options typically include one or more treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted drug therapy.

In some cases you may choose not to undergo treatment. For instance, you may feel that the side effects of treatment will outweigh the potential benefits. When that's the case, your doctor may suggest comfort care to treat only the symptoms the cancer is causing, such as pain or shortness of breath.

A.    Surgery

During surgery your surgeon works to remove the lung cancer and a margin of healthy tissue. Procedures to remove lung cancer include:

  • Wedge resection to remove a small section of lung that contains the tumor along with a margin of healthy tissue.
  • Segmental resection to remove a larger portion of lung, but not an entire lobe.
  • Lobectomy to remove the entire lobe of one lung.
  • Pneumonectomy to remove an entire lung.

If you undergo surgery, your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes from your chest in order to check them for signs of cancer.

Lung cancer surgery carries risks, including bleeding and infection. Expect to feel short of breath after lung surgery. If a portion of your lung is removed, your remaining lung tissue will expand over time and make it easier to breathe. Your doctor may recommend a respiratory therapist who can guide you through breathing exercises to aid in your recovery.

B.    Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. A combination of drugs usually is given in a series of treatments over a period of weeks or months, with breaks in between so that you can recover.

Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain. It may also be used before surgery to shrink cancers and make them easier to remove. In some cases, chemotherapy can be used to relieve pain and other symptoms of advanced cancer.

C.    Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams from sources such as X-rays and protons to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be directed at your lung cancer from outside your body (external beam radiation) or it can be put inside needles, seeds or catheters and placed inside your body near the cancer (brachytherapy).

Radiation therapy can be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain. It may also be used as the first treatment for lung cancers that can't be removed during surgery. For people with advanced lung cancer, radiation therapy may be used to relieve pain and other symptoms.

C.    Targeted drug therapy

Targeted therapies are newer cancer treatments that work by targeting specific abnormalities in cancer cells. Targeted therapy drugs are often used in combination with chemotherapy drugs.

Some targeted therapies only work in people whose cancer cells have certain genetic mutations. Your cancer cells will be tested in a laboratory to see if these drugs might help you.

How to prevent lung cancer?

There's no sure way to prevent lung cancer, but you can reduce your risk if you:

  • Stop smoking: Quitting reduces your risk of lung cancer, even if you've smoked for years.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke: If you live or work with a smoker, urge him or her to quit. Avoid areas where people smoke, such as restaurants, and seek out smoke-free options.
  • Test your home for radon: Have the radon levels in your home checked, especially if you live in an area where radon is known to be a problem. High radon levels can be remedied to make your home safer.
  • Avoid carcinogens at work: Take precautions to protect yourself from exposure to toxic chemicals at work. Follow your employer's precautions: For instance, if you're given a face mask for protection, always wear it.
  • Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables: Choose a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Food sources of vitamins and nutrients are best. Avoid taking large doses of vitamins in pill form, as they may be harmful.
  • Exercise most days of the week: If you don't exercise regularly, start out slowly. Try to exercise most days of the week.

Does my Insurance Policy cover lung cancer treatment?

Yes. According to CCHI unified Policy terms and conditions, health insurance policies in Saudi Arabia cover lung cancer treatment.

Please Click Here to access the Unified CCHI Policy Wordings.


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