Lung cancer/lung tumour is a potentially fatal disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is caused by the abnormal cell proliferation that occurs in the lungs, which may result in serious psychological and physical effects for individuals and their loved ones.
Chemotherapy, surgery, and stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) are some of the treatment options available for lung cancer. While all these treatment options can be helpful in fighting cancer, they can also have a number of negative side effects. For example, chemotherapy (chemo) may cause nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and other unpleasant side effects, while SBRT can cause fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath. A lung cancer biopsy, which is frequently done to diagnose the disease, can also result in bleeding and infection at the site of the biopsy.
- Effects of lung cancer on the body
- Respiratory system effects
- Cardiovascular and circulatory systems effects
- Central nervous system effects
- Immune and excretory systems effects
- Muscular and skeletal systems effects
- Other systems effects
- A note by LivLong
Effects of lung cancer on the body
Multiple systems in your body can be affected by lung cancer in its advanced stages, particularly if it continues to spread to distant areas.
Lung cancer can have an impact far beyond your lungs. Once you have a tumour in your lung, cancerous cells can split off and form new tumours nearby, or they might travel to other organs in the body once they enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system. This is known as metastasis. Lung tumour frequently spread to the following organs:
- Adrenal glands
- Lymph nodes
At first, the cancer only impacts the lungs and respiratory system. Other symptoms vary according to where the cancer spreads.
Respiratory system effects
It is not unusual to have no signs and symptoms during the initial lung cancer stages.
You may experience some respiratory symptoms at first. Frequent bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis may be a warning sign for lung cancer. You may notice a difference in your voice or sound hoarse.
A recurring or persistent cough may develop. Mucus may change colour or contain blood as the disease progresses. A severe cough can cause pain in the throat and chest. Your chest pain may worsen with coughing or breathing.
The shortness of breath is a common sign of advanced lung cancer. When you breathe, you may hear some noises or wheeze. Breathing may become much more difficult than usual as cancerous tumours block your airways.
A fluid can build up around the lungs, due to which they can become unable to expand fully when you breathe in. Even light exercise can cause strain on the breathing.
Cardiovascular and circulatory systems effects
When cancer spreads, it can enter the bloodstream and reach the heart, affecting the cardiovascular system. When you have a lung tumour, your circulatory system may transport the cancerous cells from your lungs to other organs in your body (cancer metastasising).
Blood clots may form as a result of lung cancer. These clots have the potential to move to the lung and lead to a pulmonary embolism.
Central nervous system effects
If the lung cancer spreads to the brain, you may experience headaches as well as other neurological symptoms. These include:
- Visual changes
- Memory issues
- Numbness of the limbs
- Unsteady gait
- Balance issues
Immune and excretory systems effects
Cancer can spread from the lungs to the lymph nodes nearby. The cancerous cells in the lymph nodes can travel to other parts of the body and form new tumours.
Cancer cells in the lymph nodes may cause bumps and lumps around the neck, collarbone, or armpits. You may also notice swelling in your neck or face.
Muscular and skeletal systems effects
When cancer spreads to the bones, it can cause muscle and bone pain, weaker bones, and an elevated likelihood of a fracture. Imaging tests, including bone scans or X-rays, can assist your doctor in detecting cancer in the bones.
Specific types of lung cancer are linked to the onset of Lambert–Eaton syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that disrupts nerve-to-muscle communication and can result in weakness in muscles, which can impact:
- Swallowing and chewing
Other systems effects
Other common cancer symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- General weakness
A note by LivLong
The effects of lung cancer can have a significant impact on a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Chemotherapy, SBRT, biopsy, and surgery are common treatments for lung cancer, but each can cause its own set of side effects.
The primary cause of lung cancer is smoking, and avoiding exposure to other lung irritants can help reduce the risk of developing the disease. Early detection and treatment can improve outcomes and quality of life, while maintaining lung health through regular exercise and avoiding lung irritants can help prevent the development of lung cancer.
Overall, lung cancer is a serious disease, and there is no lung cancer cure. But with the right support and treatment, its effects can be managed and patients can maintain their overall health and well-being.
How does lung cancer affect your daily life?
Cancer can have significant impact on person’s daily life. It emotionally drains patients, families, and caregivers. Distress, anxiety, and depression are some emotions during this life-changing experience. School, work, and home roles can all be impacted. It is important to recognise these changes and seek support when necessary.
How does lung cancer affect someone emotionally?
Many cancer patients are depressed. They may feel a sense of loss about their health and the social lives they had before learning they had cancer. Even after treatment is completed, some people may still experience sadness.
What are the after-effects of lung cancer?
The after-effects of lung cancer may include respiratory problems, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight, psychological and emotional effects, long-term treatment side effects, an elevated risk of other health issues, and a lower quality of life.
Where does lung cancer affect you?
Lung cancer impacts every part of the body, but it begins primarily in the respiratory system and can advance to other parts of the body as it progresses. Lung cancer symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath, in addition to headaches and weakness in other parts of the body. Lung cancer and its treatment may result in systemic side effects, such as fatigue, weight loss, and decreased immunity. It also impacts the person emotionally and psychologically, which in turn affects the quality of life.