Lung cancer can be defined as abnormal cell growth in one or both lungs. The growth starts from under the epithelial cells of the airway passage and then grows from there towards the inner lungs. It is the most common cancer found both among men and women. Over two lac Indians are diagnosed with lung cancer every year. We lose more lives by lung cancer than other cancers combined together. Although it comes a bit late in life that is around 50s, nowadays the affected age group is coming down due to various levels of pollutants in the air. Also, people getting into smoking also get it very early. This cancer once starts as mentioned above spreads much faster than any other form.
One of the major modifiable factors is smoking and tobacco use. Passive smoking is also equally dangerous. Other factors are exposure to radiation on the chest, air pollutions, radon gas or asbestos exposure, and genetic disposition.
Types of cancer
Lung cancer can broadly be classified into two types.
- Small Cell Lung Cancers (SCLC) accounts for 10 to15% of total cases. This mostly occurs due to smoking. This cancer spreads rapidly to other parts of the body. Only 1% of non-smokers may get this type of cancer.
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers (NSCLC) accounts for 85 to 90% cases. Unfortunately we do not realize when we are getting exposed to certain gases or pollutants which trigger this. This further can be categorized depending on type of cells found in the tumor. (Adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and large cell carcinomas).
Our lungs have been made extremely efficient. We actually only use about 33% of lungs. The symptoms start showing very late till a bigger portion of the lungs gets affected. Thus initial detection is usually missed. In the advanced stage symptoms like severe cough, chest pain, breathlessness, sudden weight loss, and blood in sputum are mostly seen.
Since the disease tries not to show any symptoms till it reaches the advanced stage, its detection can only be made by certain tests. A chest X-ray or a CT scan can detect the abnormality early. Hence during an annual checkup, one must try and include a chest X-ray too.
Lung cancer is highly preventable and certain simple measures can make a lot of difference. Few things which we can do to prevent are enumerated below.
- Quit smoking
- Avoid passive smoking
- Test home and work place for radon
- Avoid carcinogens at work
- Always eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables.
- Must exercise 5 days a week for at least 30 minute.
- Limit alcohol intake
- Avoid exposure to radiation
Early detection is the key to a good prognosis of the disease. Annual health checkups and staying away from smoking can do the trick. One needs to have basic knowledge of preventable measures to keep self and family safe.