Lung cancer is perhaps
one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed today. The lungs, of
course, are a pair of cone-shaped organs situated inside the chest,
they absorb oxygen into the body and omit carbon dioxide. There is a
confirmed link between smoking and lung cancer. There are essentially
two primary categories of lung cancer; Small Cell Lung Cancer, and
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. World-wide over one million people are
diagnosed with lung cancer each year. Lung cancer is defined as the
uncontrollable growth of abnormal functioning cells which are located
within the lungs. All normal lung tissue is comprised of various cells
which are programmed by nature to create lungs of a certain shape and
function. Sometimes the instructions contained within these cells
function abnormally, thusly that cell and inevitably all of that
cell's offspring will then reproduce uncontrollably, without any
regard for the normal shape and primary function of the lungs. This
erratic reproduction can
form tumors which obstruct the lung and
cause it to stop functioning as it should. Because of the significant
size of the lungs, cancer may grow and develop for a multitude of
years, thus going undetected, without ever causing any suspicion. In
fact, lung cancer can very easily spread to areas located outside of the
lungs without ever causing any obvious or even noticeable symptoms.
Further adding to the onslaught of confusion, the most common symptom
of lung cancer, a nagging, persistent cough, can often be mistaken for
a cold or bronchitis.
How common is
Lung cancer is by far one of the most common cancers in the United
States alone, accounting for about 15 percent of all recent cancer cases, or
170,000 new cases each year. At this time, over half of the known lung
cancer cases in the United States are usually found in men, but the
number found in women is now increasing drastically and will soon equal
that found in men. Today more women die of lung cancer than of breast
cancer. The majority of all people who are diagnosed with lung cancer
each year have been cigarette smokers, but not all people who smoke
will develop lung cancer. And, some people who have never smoked
develop lung cancer.
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Lung cancer may cause a number of symptoms. A cough is one of the more
common ones and is likely to happen when a tumor grows and eventually
blocks off an air passage. Another symptom is ongoing chest, shoulder,
or back pain, which feels much like a constant ache that may or may not be
related to coughing. Other symptoms may also include shortness of
breath, constant fatigue, repeated pneumonia or bronchitis, coughing
up blood, hoarseness, or swelling of the neck and face. There may also
be symptoms that do not seem to be at all related to the lungs. These
may be caused by the spread of lung cancer to other parts of the body.
Depending on which organs are affected other symptoms can include
headaches, weakness, pain, bone fractures, bleeding, or blood clots.
What are the different types of lung cancer?
The category of cells found within a tumor determines the specific
type of lung cancer. The two principal types of lung cancer are small
cell and non-small cell. The terms small cell and non-small cell refer
specifically to the type of cell a doctor can actually see under the
microscope, not to the size of the tumor. There are more than a dozen
multiplicities of lung cancer. The
following types of lung cancer cause 90% of all lung cancer
cases diagnosed: Small cell carcinoma [also referred to as oat cell
carcinoma]: usually originates in one of the larger breathing tubes,
grows fairly rapidly, and is likely to be very sizeable by the time of
diagnosis. Non-small cell lung cancer: is normally comprised of the
following three subtypes: Epidermoid carcinoma [which is also known as
squamous cell carcinoma]: usually starts in one of the larger
breathing tubes and then develops relatively slowly. The overall size of these
tumors can ultimately range from extremely small to quite large. Adeno-carcinoma: starts
developing near the outside surface of the lungs
and may fluctuate in both size and growth rate. Some of the more
slowly emerging Adeno-carcinomas are documented and identified as alveolar cell cancer. Large
cell carcinoma: which commonly originates near the surface of the lung, grows rather
rapidly, and is usually quite large when diagnosed. The names given to some
of the more uncommon, infrequent types of lung cancer are carcinoid, cylindroma, mucoepidermoid, and malignant mesothelioma.
Approximately 5% to 10% of all lung cancers diagnosed are of these
How is lung cancer diagnosed?
If lung cancer is suspected or detected, you will have a series of
tests designed to confirm the disease [diagnosis] go on the
Treatment Page and to determine how
widely the cancer has spread [staging].
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