How and What Does Lung Cancer Affect the Body?
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- Difficulty swallowing! Advanced lung cancer can affect esophagus (the tube that line from mouth to stomach) or even may be throat. This can lead to dysphagia (swallowing difficulties).
- Pain in the bone. If cancer cells in the lung have spread to the bone, this is likely to show up as pain. It may also cause bone fractures.
- Lumps in certain parts of the body, particularly such as in the armpit or neck. Cancer cells not only can spread to the lymph nodes within the chest, but also lymph nodes in the armpit, neck, and abdomen.
- Pain in the right side, under the ribs. It can occur when the cancer cells have affected the liver, another common area of lung cancer metastasis. It may also be followed with other symptoms such as appetite loss, feeling sick after eating rich food, or even jaundice (this symptom is typically characterized by the skin or/and whites of eyes become a bit yellow).
- Advanced lung cancer can spread to the brain, too. This may cause symptoms such as weakness, headaches (typically with sickness), and confusion /drowsiness. See also about what happen when cancer grows in the brain in this section!
- Adrenal glands are essential to help produce certain hormones. Cancer cells in the lung can spread to these glands, impairing with the production of adrenal hormones (lower than normal). This may cause symptoms such as dizziness, tiredness, weakness, faintness, or unintended weight loss.
There are many types of lung cancer. And some can release hormone-like substances into the bloodstream, causing problems with distant organs (even though when the cancer cells don’t spread to these organs) called paraneoplastic syndromes. Some of these syndromes may be associated with early stage of lung cancer, while others may point to advanced lung cancer.
In general, lung cancer is divided into two main types; small cell and non-small cell type. Small cell type is exclusively found in smokers (it is very rare in non-smokers). Non-small cell type can affect both non-smokers and smokers, and it is the most common type of lung cancer.
The following are paraneoplastic syndromes associated with non-small cell type:
- High level (higher than normal) of calcium. This can lead to confusion, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, constipation, thirst, frequent urination, or other problems of nervous system.
- Easier for blood clots.
- Breast swelling, typically in men.
- Excess growth of particular bones, particularly such as those in the finger tips.
And below are paraneoplastic syndromes associated with small cell type:
- Sometime the cancer may release a hormone called ACTH that can stimulate the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. As a result you may experience weakness, easy bruising, drowsiness, or easier for weight gain – you are also likely to have high blood pressure (hypertension) and high blood sugar.
- The cancer may also produce and release another hormone called ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) that will give signal to the kidneys to retain more water, causing too low sodium in the bloodstream. This can lead to symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, muscles cramps, decreased appetite, nausea or/and vomiting, confusion, and restlessness. It may become serious and cause seizure (or even come) if left untreated.
- Sometime the cancer may cause miscommunication in the function of body immune system and make it attacks its own healthy nervous system, causing some neurologic problems (such as weakness of muscles around the hips and shoulder, difficulty swallowing, difficulty speaking, or unsteadiness in leg & arm movement). Patients may also experience changes in sensation and vision
While the treatment is necessary, it also carries some side effects. In other words, lung cancer and its treatments can be a lot to cope with! Both can cause physical and psychological problems.
Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy are the common treatment options for lung cancer. These may also be used with other treatments such as biological therapy, radiofrequency, photodynamic, or cryotherapy (freezing treatment).
Depending on your treatment plan or particular treatments you take, you may experience some of the following side effects:
- Nausea or/and vomiting.
- Hair loss.
- Fertility or change in sex lives.
- Some psychological problems.
- And so on!
There is a chance for lung cancer to affect the body with other ways, not mentioned in this section. But overall now you know that it can affect the body with numerous different ways.