Lung cancer is a disease caused by abnormal (cancerous) cells in the lungs. These cells multiply, destroy the normal cells and prevent the lungs from functioning properly. There are two types of lung cancer: small-cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer. Of the two, small-cell lung cancer has the worst prognosis since it is the most aggressive and grows rapidly.

Because blood picks up oxygen in the lungs and then flows from the lungs, this type of cancer can easily spread to other parts of the body. It is the deadliest form of cancer in both men and women. It generally affects individuals between 55 and 65 years of age.

Causes

Smoking, which includes cigarettes, pipes and cigars, is the leading cause of lung cancer. It is responsible for 80 to 90% of all lung cancer cases. Constant exposure to secondhand smoke also increases your risk of developing lung cancer, as does exposure to cancer-causing agents that may be present in certain work environments. Also, individuals with chronic lung disease have a higher risk of developing this type of cancer.

Symptoms

Here are some of the symptoms associated with lung cancer:

  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Sputum (phlegm) that is tinged with blood
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Shortness of breath
  • Repeated bronchitis
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

Lung cancer is rarely diagnosed in its early stages because symptoms seldom occur until the later stages. The symptoms and their severity are determined by the size and location of the tumour and whether it is obstructing the lungs.

Generally speaking, it is highly recommended that you see your doctor if you have a cough that persists, have sputum that is tinged with blood, feel short of breath and have chest pains.

Prevention

The best prevention is to avoid the leading causes of lung cancer which are smoking and secondhand smoke. After quitting smoking, your chances of developing lung cancer is reduced by half within 10 years.

Diagnosis

The examinations used to diagnose lung cancer include:

  • Sputum analyses
  • Biopsy
  • Chest x-ray
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Treatment

Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy which can be used alone or in combination. Treatment is based on the severity of the cancer, the type of lung cancer and the patient's overall health.

For more information or for support:

Canadian Cancer Society

www.cancer.ca

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