Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, and is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women. The lungs act as sponges, absorbing and filtering out anything that can be harmful to you to provide clean oxygen for your body. So as you expose your lungs to more harmful substances, particles and chemicals, you may be doing excessive harm on the health of your lungs, possibly leading to lung cancer.
Types of Lung Cancer
Non-Small Cell is the most common type of lung cancer, but is slower growing than small cell. About 85% of lung cancers are non-small cell cancer. Some examples of non-small cell lung cancer include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.
Small Cell lung cancer is an aggressive cancer that looks small and oval-shaped. This is also called oat cell cancer. This type only accounts for about 10-15% of lung cancers.
Lung Carcinoid Tumor only accounts for about 5% of all lung cancers. They are also known as lung neuroendocrine tumors. These tumors grow very slowly and rarely spread.
Risk Factors of Lung Cancer
The following increases your risk of getting lung cancer:
- Secondhand smoke
- Being exposed to chemicals or pollution
- Exposure to radon gas
- Exposure to asbestos
- Being infected with HPV
- Having a family history of lung cancer
- Age (the average age of diagnosis is around 70 years old)
If you experience the following symptoms that are often signs of lung cancer or another condition, talk with your doctor:
- Chest pain
- Cough, trouble breathing, wheezing, hoarseness
- Blood in sputum
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Trouble swallowing
- Swelling in the face or neck
Stages of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Stage I: The cancer is located only in the lungs and has not spread to any lymph nodes.
Stage II: The cancer is in the lung and nearby lymph nodes.
Stage III: Cancer is found in the lung and in the lymph nodes in the middle of the chest, also described as locally advanced disease. Stage III has two subtypes:
- If the cancer has spread only to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest where the cancer started, it is called stage IIIA.
- If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest, or above the collar bone, it is called stage IIIB.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of lung cancer, and is also described as advanced disease. This is when the cancer has spread to both lungs, to fluid in the area around the lungs, or to another part of the body, such as the liver or other organs.
What Can You Do to Prevent Lung Cancer
The best thing you can do is to quit smoking, or to remove yourself from an environment with smoking. Smoking and secondhand smoke are the biggest causes of lung cancer. Even if you’ve been smoking for years, quitting can greatly reduce your chances of getting cancer.
Regular visits with your doctor can also help with prevention, especially if you know you’re at risk. Even if you are diagnosed, it can be treated in its early stages. To learn more, contact us at Northwest Medical Specialties, PLLC in the Tacoma, WA area.