According to the CDC, lung cancer (cancer that originates in the lung) is one of the most common cancers in the United States behind skin cancer, prostate cancer (among men) and breast cancer (among women). Nevertheless, more people actually die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. In the US alone according to the National Cancer Institute, about 127,070 deaths were estimated representing 20.8% of all cancer deaths. Because early stage cancer symptoms can often go unnoticed, the aggressiveness of the cancer at later stages make lung cancer very difficult to treat. This article provides the main things you need to know about lung cancer if you or someone you know has it.
There are two types of lung cancer
There are two main types of lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer NSCLC is the most common and makes up about 85% of all cases. Non-small cells are larger and tend to spread more slowly. However, they often go undetected being diagnosed after spreading so early detection increases the likelihood for positive outcomes. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) occur less often however it is fast growing and is the leading cause of death for lung cancer patients. Early stage detection is critical. The American Cancer Society indicates that the 5-year survival rate for SCLC when the cancer is localized is 27%. However, if it has spread, the survival rate drops to 3%, so again early detection is critical.
Common risk factors for lung cancer include smoking tobacco including cigarettes. Number and duration of smoking increase the risk and vaping has been identified as a risk factor. With the increase in marijuana smoking, questions arise whether this is a risk factor but to this date the data is inconclusive. In addition to smoking directly, being exposed to second-hand smoke increases one’s risk as well as exposure to other carcinogens like asbestos, arsenic, radon gas, and uranium. Additional risks can include genetics if there is a family history of the disease.
How do I know I have lung cancer?
As mentioned previously, early-stage lung cancer symptoms are difficult to notice. As the cancer advances, possible symptoms to look out for include:
Shortness of breath
Hoarseness of voice
Unexplained weight loss
Bloody mucus in cough
Loss of appetite
If you are worried about whether you have lung cancer, there are various tests and procedures that are used including:
Biopsy to analyze cancer cells taken through a needle, surgery, or via a bronchoscopy.
Imaging tests like X-rays, CT or PET scans, and MRIs.
Sputum cytology which examines mucus coughed up from the lungs.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, an appropriate stage is given to the lung cancer from early stage to stage IV lung cancer which has spread or metastasized to other areas of the body.
Many therapies exist including surgery, radiating the target areas, or chemotherapy with drugs. These conventional methods have worked to some varying degree. However, it is important to note that in later stages of lung cancer, conventional methods can be limiting as in the example of chemotherapy which has a greater than 90% failure rate in advanced stage cancers. More modern therapies such as targeted immunotherapies and alternative medicine have made promising and significant inroads to treating the root cause of cancer overall.
There really isn’t a one size fits all way to prevent cancer however there are lifestyle choices that do decrease one’s risk of getting cancer. The biggest one is to quit or avoid smoking and being exposed to tobacco smoke. Additionally, eating a healthy diet and regular exercise have benefits.
Lung cancer can be devastating particularly when diagnosed in advanced stages. Early detection and therapies that target the root cause of the cancer are critical for improving outcomes for patients. If you need a second opinion and are looking at more innovative methods to treat your lung cancer, talk to a leading expert in alternative therapies for lung cancer today, Dr. Andrew Dickens at Dayspring Cancer Clinic. Learn more at dayspringcancerclinic.com.