Lung Cancer Awareness Month November 2017
2 Nov 2017
Lung Cancer Awareness Month
What is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that start off in one or both lungs. This is usually in the cells that line up the air passages. The abnormal cells do not develop into a healthy lung tissue; they divide rapidly and form tumours.
As tumours become larger and more numerous, they undermine the lungs ability to provide the bloodstream with oxygen. Tumours that remain in one place and do not spread are known as benign tumours. Malignant tumours are the more dangerous tumours; they spread to other parts of the body either through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
Lung cancer can start in the trachea (windpipe), the main airway (bronchus) or the lung tissue. A Cancer which originates in the lungs is known as a primary lung cancer; whereas a cancer which starts in another part of the body and spreads to the lungs is known as secondary lung cancer.
Lung cancer can start in any part of the lungs or airways. These are part of the respiratory system (breathing). This includes the nose and the mouth, the trachea (windpipe), left and right bronchus (airways to each lung) and the lungs.
What are the Stages of Lung Cancer?
The stage of lung cancer refers to the size and how far it has spread; doctors look at the size of the tumour; whether it is located in the lymph nodes and whether it is spread to another part of the body. A small cancer that is only located in the lung is most likely to be an early stage lung cancer; whereas one that has spread to the surrounding tissue or to another part of the body is known as an advanced cancer.
This is divided into four stages
Stage 1- The cancer is still inside the lung (localised) and hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes. The tumour is no bigger than 5cm. This is classed as early or localised lung cancer.
Stage 2- The cancer is no bigger than 7cm and may not affect the nearby lymph nodes. Or it is bigger than 7cm and has spread to surrounding tissues but not the lymph nodes. The cancer is growing into other areas of the lung, or the airway, or surrounding areas just outside the lung. This is classed as locally advanced lung cancer.
Stage 3- The cancer can be any size and has spread to the lymph nodes. It may be located in other areas of the lungs or surrounding areas. The cancer can also have spread to the tissues and structures further away from the lung but has not yet spread to distant parts of the body. This is classed as locally advanced lung cancer.
Stage 4- The cancer has spread to a distant part of the body such as the liver, bones or the brain. The cancer can be any size and may have spread to the lymph nodes. This means that the cancer has spread to the lungs on the other side and the cancer cells are in the fluid located in the pleura or around the heart. This is classed as metastatic or secondary lung cancer.
What are the Types of Lung Cancer?
Small Cell Lung Cancer- Small cell lung cancer accounts to around 10-15% of people diagnosed. This usually grows and spreads outside the lung quite early on. Some cancer cells are more likely to have already spread through the blood or lymphatic system. This is less common than non-small cell lung cancer. This is divided into two stages:
• Limited disease- the cancer cells can be seen in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes.
• Extensive disease- the cancer has spread outside the lung, to the chest area or other parts of the body.
Non-small cell lung cancer- This is the most common type of lung cancer. This usually grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer accounts to 85-90% of people diagnosed. The different types of non-small cell lung cancer include:
• Adenocarcinomas- these are often found in an outer area of the lung.
• Squamous cell carcinomas are usually found in the centre of the lung next to an air tube (bronchus)
• Large cell carcinomas can occur in any part of the lung. They tend to grow and spread faster than the other 2 types.
Other lung related conditions
Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, leading to breathing difficulties. This condition mainly affects heavy long term smokers by causing damage to the air sac in the lungs and severely reducing the lung capacity of the smoker. However, this is not cancerous.
Asthma is a common long term disease. People with asthma have sensitive airways that become inflamed and tighten when they breathe in anything which will increase the risk of asthma such as exposure to harmful irritants such as smoking and air pollution.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the name for a group of lung conditions which cause breathing difficulties. This includes two main types:
• Emphysema- damage to the air sacs in the lungs
• Chronic bronchitis- long term inflammation of the airways
What are the Benefits of Quitting Smoking?
• Breath more easily and cough less
• Improves blood circulation around the body
• Physical activity will help to open up the lungs and allow the person to increase their fitness.
• Reduce stress
• Improved smell and taste
• Improve skin appearance
• Whiter teeth and better breath
• Overall increase life expectancy
What are the Risk factors of Lung Cancer?
• Passive smoking
• Exposure to polluted areas and chemical substances
• The older you are, especially if you are a smoker or ex-smoker there is an increased chance of developing lung cancer.
• Lack of physical activity
What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?
• Chest infections
• Long lasting chronic cough
• Coughing up blood
• Chest pain
• Persistent breathlessness
• Decreased appetitive
• Unexplained weight loss
• Difficulty swallowing
• Hoarse voice
• Fever and pneumonia
If you go to your GP with any of the above symptoms they may refer you for a chest X-ray to test for any lung conditions or cancers.
How can Lung Cancer be Prevented?
• Quit smoking
• Avoid passive smoking
• Protect yourself from polluted areas exposure and chemicals
• Regular exercise
What are the Treatments for Lung Cancer?
• Radiotherapy- uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells.
• Chemotherapy- The aim of chemotherapy is to destroy cancer cells by disrupting the growth of cancer cells.
• Surgery- Depending on the development stage of the lung cancer surgery may be considered. You can either have part of the lung removed or a lung transplant may be another option. This is only applicable if you are eligible factors would include the severity of the cancer and the lifestyle changes that the patient has made.
• Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy together
• Lasertherapy- This uses a focused beam of light to destroy cancer cells. If your lung cancer is blocking an airway and making you breathless. This treatment helps to enable you to breathe more easily again.