Updated: Jun 30, 2022
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the lungs, it is called lung cancer. Lung cancer begins in the lungs and may spread to other organs in the body, such as the brain. Cancer from other organs also may spread to the lungs. When cancer cells spread from one organ to another, they are called metastases.
Some risk factors of lung cancer are known or thought to be smoking cigarettes, secondhand smoke, radon, and/or diet.
Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer and its cigarette smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths in the United States. It is made up of a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals, almost all of which are poisonous. At least a hundred are known to cause cancer in people AND animals. People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke. Even smoking a few cigarettes, a day or smoking occasionally increases the risk of lung cancer. Quitting smoking at any age can lower the risk of lung cancer significantly. Cigarette smoking can cause cancer anywhere in the body, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
Smoke from other people’s cigarettes (secondhand smoke) can also cause lung cancer; it is almost as if the person themselves were smoking. In the United States, one out of four people who do not smoke, including 14 million children (about two times the population of Arizona), were exposed to secondhand smoke during 2013 to 2014.
After smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that forms in rocks, soil, and water and it cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. When radon gets into homes or buildings through cracks or holes, it can get trapped and build up in the air inside. People who live or work in these places breathe in high radon levels, and over prolonged periods of time, radon can cause lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. The risk of lung cancer from radon exposure is higher for people who smoke than for people who do not smoke. However, the EPA estimates that more than 10% of radon-related lung cancer deaths occur among people who have never smoked cigarettes. Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States have high radon levels.
Scientists are studying many different foods and dietary supplements to see whether they change the risk of getting lung cancer, but there is still much we need to know. We do know that people who smoke and take beta-carotene supplements have increased their risk of lung cancer. Also, arsenic and radon in drinking water (mostly from private wells) can increase the risk of lung cancer.
Different people have different symptoms for lung cancer, but some symptoms include coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing up blood, feeling tired all the time, and/or weight loss with no known cause. These symptoms can happen with other illnesses, too. If you have some of these symptoms, talk to your doctor, who can help find the cause.
Diagnosis & Treatment:
The two main types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These categories refer to what the cancer cells look like under a microscope. If you have lung cancer (especially non-small cell lung cancer), your doctor may run tests to find out if you have a change in your genes (genetic mutation). The results of these tests help your doctor know which treatments will work best for you.
If lung cancer is diagnosed, tests are done to figure out how much the cancer has spread through the lungs, lymph nodes, and the rest of the body. This is called staging. The type and stage of cancer helps doctors figure out what treatment is best for you.
The four types of treatment include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. Surgery is what it sounds like; you will undergo an operation in which doctors will remove cancer tissue. Chemotherapy is when you use special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes even both. Radiation therapy is when doctors use high energy radiation waves (such as x-rays) to kill the cancerous cells. Targeted therapy is when you are given pills to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. This type of treatment does not work for everyone, and you will be tested before to see if it is ideal for your cancer type.
Complementary & Alternative Medicine:
These types of medicines are health practices that are not typical treatments that doctors use to treat cancer. Complementary medicine is used in addition to standard treatments. Some examples of complementary medicine include acupuncture, dietary supplements, massage therapy, hypnosis, and meditation. Alternative medicine is used in place of standard treatments. Some examples of alternative medicine include special diets, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, and magnet therapy. Many kinds of complementary and alternative medicine have not been tested scientifically and may not be safe. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before you start any kind of complementary or alternative medicine.
How common is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, making up almost 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
Please visit the sources below for more information on lung cancer, as well as prevention methods.