Lung cancer

καρκίνος του πνεύμονα What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer occurs when normal cells in the lungs become pathological and grow uncontrollably. There are several types of lung cancer with a different grade of aggressiveness in each. So, one type of cancer can grow very quickly, while another much more slowly. In the U.S. lung cancer is the commonest cause of malignancy leading to death, both in men and in women.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

The most common symptoms are:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Haemoptysis – blood in sputum
  • Chest Pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Headache, swelling of  head, neck and hands

Moreover, if the cancer is on the upper part of the lungs, it may be accompanied by:

  • Pain in hands, neck and chest
  • Blurred vision, ptosis of eyelids
  • Weakness and atrophy of hands muscles

Of course, it is worth mentioning that all these symptoms may be caused by conditions other than lung cancer. However, if you have the above, tell your doctor immediately.

Is there a test for the diagnosis of lung cancer?

Yes. If your doctor suspects that you have lung cancer, he will examine you clinically and ask you to perform a chest radiograph. If the chest radiograph shows a suspect lesion, you may be asked to undergo further testing such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Computed tomography
  • Biopsy. Your doctor removes a small sample of the lung which is then examined under a microscope.

What is staging of lung cancer?

The staging of lung cancer is a system by which doctors classify cancer depending on how advanced it is. The appropriate treatment is individualized and depends on the stage of cancer, patient age, other health problems that may exist and also the type of lung cancer.

What is the treatment of lung cancer?

Most patients with lung cancer eventually have something or all of the following:

  • Surgery – especially if cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, surgery can remove the tumor.
  • Radiotherapy – radiation kills cells
  • Chemotherapy – Consists of various drugs with activity against tumor cells
  • Targeted therapy – Some drugs work against cancer with specific features. Your doctor may ask you to do some specific tests to determine whether you have a cancer with special features that are worthy of targeted therapy.

Also, cancer patients receive treatment for their symptoms. For example, if someone has difficulty breathing because fluid has gathered around his lungs, his doctor can remove the fluid so that the patient gets rid of dyspnea.

What happens after treatment?

After treatment, the patient is examined by his doctor regularly for recurrence of cancer. He may undergo a chest radiograph or CT scan. It is also important for the patient to report any symptoms to his doctor, especially those mentioned above, as this may indicate a relapse.

What happens if lung cancer recurs?

If there is a relapse, the patient may undergo chemotherapy, radiotherapy or even surgery.

Is lung cancer preventable?

Maybe. The best prevention is avoidance of smoking. It is known that smokers have an increased risk of lung cancer compared to nonsmokers. If someone smokes, he should immediately stop smoking!

What else can be done?

It is important to follow the instructions and have tests that your doctor suggests. It is also important to talk to your doctor about any problems and side effects from treatment of lung cancer. Finally, every time you are suggested to have a treatment from your doctor you can ask the following:

  1. What is the benefit from this treatment? Is it possible to increase my survival? It will reduce or relieve my symptoms?
  2. What is the disadvantage of this treatment?
  3. Are there any other alternatives of the treatment?
  4. What happens if I do not receive this treatment?

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