Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer. As everyone knows, smoking is a strong risk factor for developing lung cancer with tobacco smoke causing 80-90% of cases. The link between smoking and lung cancer was reportedly made by a German physician in 1929. Other causes can include pollution, asbestos, genetics, and second-hand smoke.
The most common presenting symptoms are cough and/or chest pain or coughing up blood, with other less common presenting symptoms including weight loss, shortness of breath, a hoarse throat/voice, or chest infections.
Many cancers can be suspected when seeing an abnormality on chest x-ray or CT, and confirmed by biopsy (taking a sample of the tissue). Depending on the location of the mass biopsies can be achieved by either a needle from the outside of the skin (usually guided by CT) if they are close to the outside of the body, or from a sample gained via bronchoscopy (a tube that is advanced from your mouth in to your lungs whilst being under anaesthetic) if the mass is deeper within your body.
There are different types of lung cancers based on the type of cell that the cancer originated from. Depending on what type and how advanced the cancer is treatment may include surgery, various medications, chemotherapy, radiation, or palliative care. The earlier a cancer is detected the better the prognosis.
Lung cancers often spread to bone (eg ribs), liver or brain. Other symptoms can be caused by hormones released from the cancer.
Lung cancers are generally more aggressive than many other cancers, with only 8-15% of people being alive 5 years after diagnosis, compared to a 50% 5-year survival rate for breast or cervical cancers.
Occasionally cancer found in the lung originated from another source eg. a “secondary tumour” that has spread from the kidneys, prostate or breast.
As always, if you feel you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, be sure to get yourself to a doctor. The earlier the diagnosis the better the chance of survival!