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Lung Cancer  

Cancer is a devastating illness and results in the most deaths second only to heart disease. There are many kinds of cancer which can range from types that are relatively easy to diagnose and treat to the top 10 deadliest types. Of these types, lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer and has claimed 792,495 lives between 2003 and 2007. The estimated new cases and deaths from lung cancer (non-small cell and small cell combined) in the United States in 2012 are successively 226,160 (new cases) and 160,340 (deaths) according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). We will review the specifics of this type of cancer in greater detail and provide some future outlook and treatment options. 

The incidence of lung cancer appears to be tied closely to those who smoke or use tobacco.  It is also tends to affect people between the ages of 55 and 65 years of age.  The disease can often develop quickly and by the time it is diagnosed, it can be much more difficult to treat. 

There are two major types of lung cancer.  One is called non-small cell lung cancer.  It is the most common type of lung cancer.  The second type of lung cancer is called small cell lung cancer and accounts for about 20% of all lung cancer cases.  It is less common, but tends to spread more quickly than the non-cell type and is therefore deadlier.  Sometimes a person may have lung cancer which is made up of both types of the disease. In this case, chance to survive decreases considerably.  

Lung cancer normally begins in the tissues of the lungs.  Within the lungs are tubes called bronchi.  Most lung cancer forms in the cells which line these tubes.  In some cases a person develops cancer in another organ or part of the body and it spreads to the lungs.  If the lung becomes affected in this way, the disease is called metastatic cancer. 

As indicated earlier, lung cancer tends to affect people between 55 to 65.  It is fairly rare for individuals younger than 45 to be a victim.  Since cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, the more cigarettes you smoke the greater your chances are of eventually developing the disease.  Secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of someone developing cancer.  As a matter of fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that 3,000 nonsmoking adults will develop lung cancer in the US by breathing secondhand cigarette smoke. 

Other factors which can increase the risk of developing lung cancer include the following: 

  • A family history of lung cancer 
  • Exposure to asbestos (mesothelioma) or other cancer causing agents such as coal, gasoline, diesel exhaust, uranium, vinyl chloride, and others 
  • High levels of pollutants in the air 
  • High levels of chemicals such as arsenic in the water 
  • Radon gas

There are a variety of symptoms which are often associated with the onset of lung cancer: 

  • Chest pain 
  • Coughing which does not subside 
  • Coughing up blood 
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Weight loss without trying to cut back on calories 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Shortness of breath 

There are other symptoms which can be more closely associated with later state lung cancer.  They may include the following: 

  • Tenderness in the bones 
  • Drooping eyelids 
  • Facial paralysis 
  • Pain in the joints 
  • Problems with nails 
  • Swelling of the face or arms 
  • General weakness and sluggishness 

However keep in mind that there may be little to no symptoms to lung cancer until the disease has progressed more.  This can make it much more difficult to treat since the disease has progressed much further. 

There are a number of aggressive treatments which can be used for lung cancer cases.  This can often include radiation therapy or chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells.  The results are improving in terms of slowing down the progression or even achieving remission.  But a complete cure is still elusive.  A great deal of effort is underway to improve the long term prospects for patients and ultimately develop a cure.