The lungs are vital organs that are constantly at work in the body without you even having to think about it. The lungs are required to breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.
Unfortunately the lungs are susceptible to cancer, especially when a person is exposed to certain risk factors. Risk factors for developing lung cancer include smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, family history of lung cancer and more.
Lung cancer is a type of cancer that can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms are often not present until the disease has spread or is at a more advanced stage. The common symptoms associated with lung cancer can also be confused for other illnesses in the beginning stages of the disease. These symptoms include a nagging cough, headache, weakness and general fatigue.
A diagnosis of liver cancer can be scary, but there are many medical treatments available today that are highly effective. There are also many alternative therapies to choose from that can help to treat the signs and symptoms of lung cancer.
Common symptoms of lung cancer include:
- Nagging cough
- Coughing up blood
- Tight feeling in chest
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Chest pain
It can be difficult to make a diagnosis of lung cancer based solely on a physical examination and symptoms. The doctor will do many different tests to help arrive at a diagnosis including blood tests, sputum cytology exam and a spiral CT scan. The doctor will also order for a biopsy of tissue to be taken as a sample from the lung to test for cancerous cells. If a diagnosis of lung cancer is made the doctor will want to determine what kind of lung cancer it is and what stage the cancer is at.
There are two main types of lung cancer including small cell lung cancer and non-small lung cancer. The stages of small cell lung cancer include limited stage and extensive stage. In the limited stage the cancer is confined to lung and surrounding lymph nodes. In the extensive stage the cancer is no longer just in the lung, but has spread to other areas of the body. The stages used for non-small cell lung cancer include:
- Stage I: The cancer is confined to the lung.
- Stage II: The cancer is still located in the lung but may have begun to affect the nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III: The cancer still primarily affects the lung by may have spread to lymph nodes throughout the body.
- Stage IV: The cancer primarily affects the lung but has spread to other areas of the body.
There are many different treatment options that the doctor will go over with the patient. One of the most common treatment options is surgery. Surgery is used to remove the cancerous tissue and tumor from the lung. Some of the surgical procedures used include wedge resection, segmental resection, pneumonectomy and lobectomy. Radiation therapy is another treatment option which is used to destroy the cancer cells and relieve symptoms. It uses high power energy beams to destroy the cells. Targeted drug therapy is another common treatment option that uses certain medications that target abnormalities in the cancer cells. Chemotherapy uses drugs that are administered to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is administered orally or intravenously. It can have a wide variety of side effects including nausea, weakness, fatigue, hair loss, dizziness and more. Chemotherapy treatment is scheduled with days or weeks between cycles to give the body time to rest and repair. Palliative care is a treatment option that may be used in conjunction with other types of care to keep the patient comfortable. Clinical trials use the latest medical science and research and apply it to experimentally treat the cancer.
Treatment for lung cancer is highly customized to meet the patient’s personal health concerns. It is also based on the type and stage of lung cancer. The doctor will go over treatment options with the patient and will modify treatment based upon how the cancer is reacting. The doctor may recommend alternative therapies to complement the medical treatment that the patient is receiving. There are many different types of alternative therapies that focus on treating the symptoms of lung cancer. Acupuncture uses small needles that are inserted by a certified therapist into various points in the body. It can help to relieve pain, nausea and anxiety. Massage therapy uses the hands to relieve pain and tension throughout the body. Meditation is a therapy that can be done individually or in a group. It uses positive energy and focus to help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety. Any alternative treatments that are used should only be done if they are recommended or approved by the doctor to ensure that they do not conflict with other medicinal treatments.
The sooner lung cancer is detected and treated the better the prognosis is. If you have symptoms that concern you make an appointment with your physician.