Lung Cancer: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment


Lung Cancer is a common cancer found in people who smoke globally. It is the leading cause for deaths because of cancer not only in United States but also worldwide.

Statistics from the American Cancer Society estimated that in 2018 there will be about 244,000 new cases of lung cancer in the U.S. occurred and over 154,000 deaths were due to the disease. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, approximately 6.5% of men and women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer of the lung at some point in their lifetime based on data from 2011-13.

Lung Cancer is a threat to vast majority of population as it takes lives more than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined.

The major cause of lung cancer is smoking and drinking. Even a passive smoker, who does not smoke, may get exposed to this cancer if he/she lives in a smoking zone.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

  • Persistent cough and shortness of breath
  • Chest pain that does not go away, it only increases with coughing and breathing.
  • Appetite loss that leads to weight loss
  • Breathlessness with physical activities
  • Difficulty in breathing while taking stairs
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Weakness
  • Blood in cough

Types of Cancer

  1. Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC): This type of cancer comprises of 10-15% of Lung Cancers globally. It is an aggressive form of lung cancer that grows rapidly. It is caused because of smoking cigarettes. This type of cancer is discovered generally after its spread in other parts of the body and it takes a severe form by that time.
  2. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC): It’s the more common type of Lung Cancer that consists of 85% of total cases. It is further categorized in three parts.

(i) Adenocarcinomas: This type of cancer is very common and is found even in non-smokers, especially women. About 40% of cases are comprised of this type of cancer. This cancer has the tendency to spread in lymph nodes and may affect other parts of the body.

(ii) Squamous Cell Carcinomas: This cancer has improved its state in past few years and is lesser common than other types. It is also known as epidermoid carcinomas, this cancer arise mostly in central chest area in the bronchi.
This cancer stays within the lungs, spread to lymph nodes and grows larger.

(iii) Large Cell Carcinomas: This is the least common type of cancer amongst all lung cancer and has the tendency to spread to lymph nodes.

Cause of Lung Cancer:

Lung Cancer is commonly caused by smoking but scientists have researched that there are cases where non-smokers also develop lung cancer.

  1. Active Smoking: Smoking damages the DNA and lungs. It affects lymph nodes, bronchi and other parts of the body.
  2. Passive Smoking People who do not smoke may also get prone to lung cancer because of living in a smoke-prone environment.
  3. Family History: Lung Cancer could be hereditary, get a check up today if you have a family history of lung cancer.
  4. Radon Gas Exposure: Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in rock, water and soil. It eventually becomes part of the air and unsafe levels can accumulate in homes and other buildings.
  5. Chemical Exposure: Asbestos, chromium, nickel and arsenic increases risk of developing cancer especially with prolonged exposure.

Diagnosis of Lung Cancer

History and Physical Examination: Before taking further steps in treatment, doctors examine the body for any other diseases, lumps or spots that seem unusual.

History of the patient is also checked, if there were any related diseases in the past or family history of the patient. If a person is smoker, has been in stressed environment for long or any treatment that he/she might have taken.

Laboratory Tests: Doctors generally advice to take these tests: Test samples of tissue, blood, urine etc. to examine the disease closely. With these tests, it becomes easier to understand the body composition and severity of the disease.

Chest X-Ray: X-Ray of the bones inside the chest is done to understand the inner mechanism. Through X-Ray, one can see the internal body parts filmed on X-Ray paper.

CT Scan (CAT Scan): It is done to take series of detailed pictures of internal organs of the body, such as chest in Lung Cancer, from different angles.

For this, a dye may be injected or swallowed to make the pictures visible more clearly. This process is also known as computer tomography.

Sputum Cytology: In this procedure, pathologist views the sputum or mucus under a microscope to check for lung cancer cells.

Thoracentesis: The removal of fluid from the space between the lining of the chest and the lung, using a needle. A pathologist views the fluid under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

“Even if a smoker stops smoking today, he/she can reduce the chances of Lung Cancer to a significant level”

Lung Cancer Treatment:

Treatment for Lung Cancer varies for every individual and their preferences. Doctors can help you decide what type of treatment you should undergo on the basis of the type of cancer, the stage and body composition.

Sometimes, patient does not want to undergo any treatment if his age does not allow him/her to. In many cases, patient think that a treatment would do more damage to the body than the good, in such cases doctors only treat the symptoms of cancer or may lower the chances of cancer to grow inside.


In surgery, surgeons work to progress against removing Lung Cancer from the body along with a margin of healthy tissues. Surgery is done in following ways:

· Wedge resection to remove a small section of lung that contains the tumor along with a margin of healthy tissue
· Segmental resection to remove a larger portion of lung, but not an entire lobe
· Lobectomy to remove the entire lobe of one lung
· Pneumonectomy to remove an entire lung
· If you undergo surgery, your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes from your chest in order to check them for signs of cancer.

Radiation therapy:

Radiation Therapy is used to kill cancer cells with high-powered energy beams from sources such as X-Rays and Protons.

It is often combined with Chemotherapy. In many cases it is done before the surgery as well.


Chemotherapy, like Radiation Therapy, kills cancer cell. Chemotherapy drugs are injected in the vein or taken orally to kills the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy is done at certain interval of time to allow time to the body for recovering. It is used after surgery and is sometimes combined with Radiation Therapy.


Stereotactic body radiotherapy, also known as radiosurgery, is an intense radiation treatment that aims many beams of radiation from many angles at the cancer. Stereotactic body radiotherapy treatment is typically completed in one or a few treatments.

Radiosurgery is done in people who have small lung cancer and can’t go under surgery.

Targeted Drug Therapy:

Targeted Drug treatments are specified to deal with cancer cells’ abnormalities. By blocking these abnormalities, targeted drug treatments can cause cancer cells to die.

Targeted Therapy Drugs are used in most cases to treat lung cancer; some of the drugs are also preserved for advance cancer treatment as well.

Some targeted therapies only work in people whose cancer cells have certain genetic mutations. Your cancer cells may be tested in a laboratory to see if these drugs might help you.

Palliative care:

Lung cancer comes with many symptoms and its treatment with many side effects. Palliative care, i.e, supportive care involves your doctor to minimize the signs and symptoms of your Lung Cancer.

During treatment of Lung Cancer, patient’s body goes through many changes and doctors may recommend you to meet palliative care team to make your post treatment journey comfortable for you.

Study says that, people with advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer who started taking palliative care, recovered easily after their diagnosis and lived longer than the people who only took treatments like Chemotherapy, Radio Therapy etc.

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