Lung cancer: Causes and symptoms

By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor

The majority of cancer deaths in men and women nowadays are caused by lung cancer. What’s worse is that the vast majority of lung cancer deaths are also caused by something we have control over and that is most often times self-inflicted – voluntary smoking. WebMD reports that 9 out of every 10 lung cancer deaths are the result of smoking.

presence of lung cancer

presence of lung cancer

Cigarettes are loaded with cancer-causing chemicals, and also disable the lungs from their natural defense role. Cigarette smoke prohibit the tiny hairs called cilia that line and protect the airways to the lungs from ridding the lungs of toxins, bacteria, and viruses. As a result, the cancer-causing chemicals build up and lung cancer begins quietly.

There are usually no symptoms or warning signs in the early stages of lung cancer, but as it gets worse, the patient may notice a persistent cough, severe tiredness, chest pain during deep breaths, wheezing or shortness of breath, or coughing up bloody phlegm.

If you have had an unexplained history of coughing or wheezing, your doctor may prescribe a chest X-ray or other imaging tests, as well as take a sputum test. If any of these yield questionable results, the doctor will prescribe a biopsy to be done. This is when a small sample of the suspicious growth, is taken and placed for examination under a microscope to determine whether the growth is lung cancer, and if so, what type.

Pollution from exhaust pipes can be dangerous to the lungs as well

Pollution from exhaust pipes can be dangerous to the lungs as well

There are two main types of lung cancer: small-cell lung cancer, which is a more aggressive kind that can spread quickly to other parts of the body early in the disease. It is commonly linked to cigarette smoking and is rare in patients who are non-smokers. Non-small-cell lung cancer takes longer to grow, but is also responsible for almost 85 percent of all lung cancers.

Sometimes surgery can help when the test shows that the non-small-cell lung cancer has not spread beyond one lung. The part of the lung that has the tumor, or the entire lung, can be removed. Some patients undergo chemotherapy afterward to kill any remaining cancer cells from spreading again. Surgery usually doesn’t help with small-cell lung cancer because it probably has already spread before diagnosis.

If the lung cancer has spread too far to be cured, there are still treatments that can help patients to live longer. Radiation and chemotherapy can shrink tumors and help control pain in the bone or blocked airways.

The website advises that quitting smoking can be a life-saving decision, even if you already have developed lung cancer. “Research shows that people who quit smoking after learning they have lung cancer do better than those who keep smoking,” the website reports.

Breathing in second-hand smoke also raises your risk of acquiring lung cancer. Constantly being around people who smoke for a period of years raises your chances to between 20 and 30 percent more likely to get lung cancer than not being around smokers.

Some occupations, particularly those who work with chemicals, also places you in direct risk of developing lung cancer. Asbestos, which was once widely used in insulation, is a known cause of lung cancer. It’s rarely used now, but workers who were exposed years ago to it are still at risk.

Air pollution causes far fewer cases of lung cancer than smoking, but experts believe that pollution from cars, factories, and power plants may have the same effects on the lungs as second-hand smoke.

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