What is lung cancer?
Your lungs are two spongy organs located in your chest that allow you to breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Cancer that starts in the lungs is known as lung cancer because the cells there multiply at an unchecked rate. This abnormal multiplication of cells can interfere with lung function.
Most of the time, this is due to our inhalation of harmful chemicals. Yet, lung cancer can occur in persons who have never been exposed to hazardous substances.
According to research, there are several risk factors that can increase someone’s chances of getting lung cancer, like:
Cigarette smoking: People who smoke cigarettes, beedis, and tobacco through other smoking apparatus are 15 to 30 times more prone to developing lung cancer. No matter what the frequency of your smoking is, it makes you susceptible to malignant lung tumours. Even after you quit, you will be at higher risk of developing lung cancer compared to non-smokers.
Second-hand smoke: When you are around someone who is smoking, you are also breathing the smoke. Even if you are not the smoker, just being around the smoke is enough to cause damage to your lung health.
Contact with environmental pollutants: Substances like asbestos, arsenic, diesel fumes are known to be carcinogenic. Besides, if you already smoke and regularly encounter these substances, the risk of cancer is even higher. Living in areas with air pollution can also be detrimental to your lung health.
Family history: If you have had lung cancer, there is a chance that you will acquire it again, especially if you are a smoker. If your parents, siblings, or children have had lung cancer, your risk may be increased. This could be because they too smoke, or because they live or work in an area where they are exposed to carcinogenic substances quite often.
Types of lung cancer
The two main types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). There is a third type of lung cancer, known as carcinoid, but it is quite rare.
Small cell lung cancer is named after appearance of the cancer cells under a microscope. SCLC is almost always attributed to heavy smoking. This is an aggressive and rapidly spreading type of cancer compared to other forms of lung cancer, so it needs immediate treatment. SCLC has two sub-types:
- Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer)
- Combined small cell carcinoma
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most commonly occurring type of lung cancer. Compared to SCLC, NSCLC spreads to other parts of the body at a slower rate, and displays few or no symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage. It has three sub-types:
- Adenocarcinoma is often found on the outside of the lung. It is also the most prevalent type of lung cancer in non-smokers.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is also called epidermoid carcinoma. This type of NSCLC begins in the centre of the lung, right next to the bronchi (airways).
- Large cell carcinoma is characterised by big, abnormal-looking cells. It can develop in any area of the lung and grows and spreads more quickly than adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.
Non-small cell lung cancers that are less prevalent include adenosquamous carcinoma and sarcomatoid carcinoma.
Lung carcinoid tumours are rare and grow more slowly than other forms of lung cancer. They are composed of unique cells known as neuroendocrine cells. Carcinoids are often classified as either typical or atypical. Carcinoids are extremely uncommon, grow slowly, and are treated surgically. Carcinoids account for about 2% of all lung tumours, and atypical carcinoids are rarer than typical carcinoids.
Other rare types of lung tumours: Other kinds of lung cancer that are rare, include adenoid cystic carcinomas, lymphomas, and sarcomas, in addition to benign lung tumours such as hamartomas. They are handled differently from abovementioned types of lung cancer.
Although lung cancer is common, people are unaware of its existence or are scared to learn more about it. Lung cancer can go undetected for a long time since symptoms normally do not show until the cancer has advanced. You may be eligible for a lung cancer screening if you are over 55 and have a history of smoking.
See a doctor if you develop symptoms like shortness of breath or a persistent cough. The doctor will inquire about your overall health as well as your symptoms. They may examine you and request that you breathe into a spirometer, which monitors how much air you breathe in and out.
A blood test may be ordered to screen out other possible reasons for problems, such as a chest infection.
Imaging tests like a chest X-ray and a CT scan may also be ordered to get a better understanding of your lung health. If the CT scan confirms the presence of cancer, then a PET CT scan should follow.
Other tests include a bronchoscopy, where the doctor sees the inside of your airways and takes a tissue sample for a biopsy. In a biopsy, the sample is studied in a laboratory to further determine the presence and extent of cancer.
After these tests are performed and the results are in, your doctor or medical team should be able to determine the stage of your cancer, what kind of treatment you need, and whether it is possibility of complete lung cancer cure.
Lung cancer treatment is overseen by a multidisciplinary team of doctors who collaborate to give the best possible care.
Your treatment approach will be different depending on whether you have non-small-cell lung cancer or small-cell lung cancer. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy are the most often used treatments. You may receive a combination of these therapies, depending on the type of cancer and how far it has advanced. Each lung cancer treatment method may cause side effects, although they are typically manageable.
Not all types of lung cancer are preventable. But there are actions you may take to potentially reduce your risk of having this illness, like:
- Avoid tobacco smoking and coming in contact with second-hand smoke
- Try to avoid or restrict your exposure to other carcinogens
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
What are the two types of lung cancer?
The two types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
What is the most serious type of lung cancer?
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is the more aggressive form of cancer that requires immediate medical attention. This type of lung cancer tends to rapidly spread through the body and create large tumours.
Which lung cancer is hardest to treat?
Early-stage lung cancer has the highest survival rate. However, late-stage cancers can be hard to treat. Additionally, the type of cancer that grows relatively slower, like non-small cell lung cancer is also easier to treat if caught right on time.