An overview of lung cancer

Lungs are among the most vital organs in the body; they are also the primary organs of the body’s respiratory system. Lungs, therefore, play a very crucial role in the simplest yet most essential activity, breathing. The oxygen that we breathe enters our body through the lungs and reaches the blood vessels deep in the lungs and, subsequently, the rest of the body. Lungs also make the carbon dioxide exit the body once we breathe out.

Therefore, it is pivotal to keep the lungs in extremely good shape and health. When lungs are exposed to harmful agents due to certain acts of smoking, living in a polluted environment, or inhaling harmful chemicals or particles, it can cause several illnesses; one such illness is lung cancer.

Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of deaths of men and women in the country. It is also one of the most common types of cancer among cancer patients. It begins in the lungs when there are changes in the DNA of lung cells. When certain changes lead to increased and abnormal growth of lung cells, it leads to the formation of malignant cells, which, subsequently, results in lung cancer.

Causes of lung cancer
In order to prevent oneself from lung cancer, it is important to learn about its several causes. Below mentioned are some of the common causes of lung cancer.

  • Smoking: So far, tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer. An excessive number of cancer deaths are due to lung cancer. It is believed that smoking leads to the damage of the cells in the inner linings of the lungs. This happens due to the cancer-causing substances that bring changes in the lung tissue immediately after smoking. However, despite being the leading cause of lung cancer, smoking doesn’t always lead to lung cancer.
  • Non-smokers: As mentioned in the previous point, smoking doesn’t always cause lung cancer in people. Therefore, even non-smokers are at risk of developing lung cancer due to other causes and risk factors. In non-smokers, lung cancer can be caused by exposure to other cancer-causing agents like asbestos, diesel exhaust, or other chemicals at workplaces.
  • Inherited gene changes: Lung cancer is also caused due to the inheritance of gene changes in some people. Here, the DNA mutations are inherited by parents or grandparents in people. However, doctors also believe that inherited DNA mutations are not the only cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. They are often paired with other causes like exposure to pollution and certain other lung diseases.

Symptoms of lung cancer
Lung cancer usually does not show any signs and symptoms until the final stages. Therefore, it can be difficult to detect lung cancer through symptoms. However, some of the symptoms of stage II, III, and IV are mentioned below:

  • Symptoms of stage II: This stage shows symptoms like coughing up of blood, continuous and persistent coughing, chest pain, and recurring infections like pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • Symptoms of stage III: In this stage, patients often experience excess chest pain and face difficulty and pain while breathing. They also experience unnatural weight loss, loss of appetite, difficulty and pain in swallowing, fatigue, headache, and fever.
  • Symptoms of stage IV: In the final stage of lung cancer, patients are likely to experience persistent fatigue, pain, emotional changes, and excessive weight loss, along with other symptoms.

Treatments for lung cancer
Coming to treatment, it can be difficult to treat and cure someone with lung cancer in the later stages. However, there are treatments available that allow the patient to reduce their symptoms and increase their life expectancy. Some treatments of lung cancer are mentioned below:

  • Surgery: In this treatment procedure, the tumor is removed from the lung. It is opted for when the tumor has not spread to other adjacent organs.
  • Radiation therapy: This treatment involves the use of high-energy beams to kill the cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: This is one of the most common treatments of cancer. It involves doses of medication for killing cancer cells.
  • Radiosurgery: This is often the procedure used for people who have lung cancer that’s not chronic and want to treat cancer without surgery.
  • Targeted drug therapy: This treatment involves the precise and targeted killing of abnormalities (like genetic mutation) in the cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: In this therapy, doctors use the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. This is usually the last resort and is saved for patients who have advanced lung cancer.

Learning about the causes can help one prevent the occurrence of lung cancer. People who don’t smoke and still might have any risk of developing cancer should get themselves checked for any early signs of lung cancer whenever required. It is important to take all preventive measures to save oneself from cancer. Meeting a physician on a regular basis and getting oneself checked for cancer can, therefore, be helpful.