Lung Cancer FAQs (Summary)

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in men and women after cancers of prostate and breast. And based on the statistic of cancer-death, it is the leading cause. The very high mortality rate of the disease is due to the late diagnosis. Many times, it is diagnosed at advanced. What else you need to know? The following are some frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Are there any early symptoms to make you aware?

Having abnormal symptom is one of body’s mechanisms to tell you that something goes awry so thus you’re likely to seek help. But there are many health conditions that often don’t cause early sign.

image_illustration394Lung cancer is one of these conditions. Although it’s a life-threatening disease, but there is usually no early symptom. It’s likely to cause symptom when it has become advanced.

But diagnosing it as early as possible is very important and critical. If the cancer has not advanced yet, it is easier to treat. Even there is chance to cure it if caught early.

On the other hand, it will be more difficult to treat if it has become advanced. Even when the cancer has spread at stage IV, the treatment may be only intended to help control the cancer (not to cure it).

The common symptoms include feeling of breathless (shortness of breath), persistent cough (typically it comes up mucus), and discomforts in the chest (such as chest pain). Sometime lung cancer may also cause symptoms or discomforts that have nothing to do with the chest.

For more information about the symptoms of this cancer, see this section!

What is the exact cause of lung cancer? How do you get it?

One thing that we clearly understand that cancer occurs when the normal cells in the body get altered and grow out of control. But it’s not fully known how this change happens.

The same thing goes for lung cancer. The exact cause is also not fully understood yet. But since both of lungs are so important in the respiratory system, cells of the lungs may turn into cancer cells from getting exposed to any carcinogen that we inhale.

One of these carcinogens is from tobacco smoke. The odds of having lung cancer are greater if you smoke. Even statistically, most patients have personal history of smoking (either active or passive smoking). In other words, most cases are associated with smoking.

But smoking is not always the answer. In some cases, the disease also occurs in people who never smoked. This suggests that there are also other reasons of how your risk for lung cancer increases.

Other risk factors include radon gas and long term exposure to other carcinogens (such as silica, asbestos, arsenic, chromium, or even air pollution). The personal history of other lung diseases may have an effect, too!

However, this cancer is actually preventable. If you are a smoker, quitting can be one step forward to cut your risk significantly. What else? Here is a comprehensive guide to reduce the risk of this cancer!

Can lung cancer be painful, too?

Pain is a common symptom in patients with cancer, including for lung cancer. As written earlier, chest pain is very common in lung cancer. Typically, it gets worse when patient takes a breath (particularly for a deep breath).

Both chest pain and shortness of breath are difficult to cope with. Together, they also can make your energy drain out, causing tiredness and lack of energy which can interfere with your daily routines.

Chest pain is not the only one. There is also a chance for the cancer to cause pain in other parts of the body such as back pain, shoulder pain, bone pain, etc – see more in here!

And chest pain is also not the end of everything. If cancer has spread, the pain could be more painful – especially true if the cancer has spread to the bones.

Is it fast growing cancer?

The worst scenario is when the cancer grows aggressively and spreads to other parts of the body. In fact, it’s quite rare to find patients with early diagnosis.

On the other hand, again many times this cancer is caught lately or when it has become advanced. Does this mean that it is fast growing?

The answer may vary, but many cases of this cancer can spread quite quickly. The type of lung cancer plays a role, too. For more information about how fast it grows and develops, see this article!

How and where does it usually spread to?

Like other cancers, lung cancer can spread through the flow of blood (within blood vessels) and lymph ‘lymphatic fluid’ (within lymphatic vessels).

Cancer cells can break away from their original tumor, spreading through bloodstream and lymphatic system.

Actually, it’s not easy for cancer to spread. There are difficult steps it must go through. In essence, cancer cells need to travel to other areas of the body and survive in there (including fighting against the body immune system).

It can spread anywhere. But according to statistics of advanced lung cancer, it is likely to spread and cause a secondary cancer in particular parts of the body such as some lymph nodes, liver, bones, brain, and adrenal glands.

Metastasis is a term used to call the phase or stage of when cancer has spread (especially to a distant organ). To learn more about lung cancer metastasis, see here for more guidance!

How does the treatment go?

There are some types and subtypes of lung cancer. But in general, it is categorized into two main categories; non-small and small cell carcinoma. Each of these types behaves in different way. Therefore, they are treated differently, too.

Small cell carcinoma of lung cancer is exclusively found in patient who smoked. This type is very rare in people who never smoked.

And for non-small cell carcinoma, it is the most common form of lung cancer and it can occur in both smokers and non-smokers. It also has several sub-types.

The stage of lung cancer is another crucial factor that affects the way of how the treatment should go. Generally, staging cancer is required to determine how far the cancer has grown and spread.

 Once the type and stage of lung cancer have been confirmed, the treatment is necessary and should be started immediately.

There are a number of different treatment options. These include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy, photodynamic therapy, etc.

Typically, it is treated by a combination of two or more different treatments. Some natural therapies may also help for complementary treatment (see more in here).

The treatment plan can be divided into two groups; local treatment and systemic treatment. Local treatment such as surgery is usually used to treat early cancer or when it has not spread yet. Surgery is quite rare for treating cancer metastasis.

Systemic treatment (such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy) can target large areas of the body and therefore it is often used for advanced cancer. This treatment is also often used after surgery in order to reduce the risk of the cancer from coming back.

Are there any effective treatments to cure it (prognosis)?

Again, early stage of this cancer is much easier to treat than when it has become advanced or has spread. Even there is a good chance to cure it if it is caught early! Unfortunately many times it is caught and diagnosed at advanced stage, causing high mortality rate.

Stage of lung cancer can play a key role for the outlook and prognosis. Early stage means the cancer is most likely to respond the treatment and it is less likely to return after treatment. More advanced stage means the cancer is more difficult to treat or less likely to respond the treatment – and more likely to return after treatment.

For instance, if the cancer has spread to the liver, it may lead to a death. In fact, the survival rate for both non-small cell and small cell of lung cancer with liver metastasis is very poor.

What are the complications?

The cancer can be a significant threat to cause lung damage. Even a small cancer tumor in the lung may be enough to cause a significant breathless.

Over time, the cancer tumor can grow bigger and cause more pressure to the lung and other surrounding tissues /organs. There is a chance for a partial or complete lung to collapse.

The worst thing comes when the cancer has spread and affected other organs (metastasis). While early lung cancer is difficult to cope – advanced stages of this cancer can be harder to cope, more difficult to treat, and cause more serious complications.

For comprehensive section of how both early and advanced lung cancer affect the body, visit here!