Lung cancer

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What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women throughout the world. On average, more than 200,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. Incidences of lung cancer have fallen in recent years as the number of regular smokers has declined and education about the dangers of smoking has risen. Regardless, lung cancer continues to be the most common form of cancer in men all across the globe and the fifth-most common form in women.

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. As they grow, the cells can form tumors and interfere with the function of the lung, which provides oxygen to the body via the blood. There are three main types of lung cancer:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer – about 85 percent of lung cancer are this type.
  • Small cell lung cancer – about 10-15 percent of lung care are this type. It spreads quickly.
  • Lung carcinoid tumor – fewer than 5 percent of lung cancers are this type. They grow slowly and rarely spread.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer

Nearly 25 percent of people with lung cancer show no signs or symptoms when the cancer is diagnosed. Many of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer can take years to develop and they may not appear until the disease is advanced. Symptoms of lung cancer typically appear in the chest. It’s recommended patients consult with an ETMC First Physician if they begin to notice any of the following:

  • coughing, especially if it persists or becomes intense
  • pain in the chest, shoulder or back unrelated to pain from coughing
  • a change in color or volume of sputum
  • shortness of breath
  • changes in the voice or being hoarse
  • harsh sounds with each breath
  • recurrent lung problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • coughing up phlegm or mucus, especially if it is tinged with blood

If the original lung cancer has spread, a person may feel symptoms in other places in the body. Symptoms of lung cancer elsewhere in the body include

  • loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • muscle wasting
  • fatigue
  • headaches, bone or joint pain
  • bone fractures not related to accidental injury
  • neurological symptoms, such as unsteady gait or memory loss
  • neck or facial swelling
  • general weakness
  • bleeding and/or blood clots

Risk factors for lung cancer

There are a number of risk factors that may increase one’s chances of developing lung cancer, some of which can be controlled and others cannot. Adults that meet any of the following lung cancer risk factors should consult with an ETMC First Physician to discuss screening options.

Smoking

Patients who are current or former smokers have a higher risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers. Quitting at any age helps to lower the risk. Exposure to secondhand smoke greatly increases one’s risk of lung cancer as well.

Exposure to radon gas, asbestos and other chemicals

The breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water is known as radon and can unknowingly be a part of the air you breathe. Exposure to this gas over time leads to an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Unsafe levels of radon can build in homes, offices and other buildings. Radon testing kits are often installed in homes and help determine if the levels are safe. Exposure to asbestos and other chemicals also increase the risk – especially in smokers.

Family history

While most cases of lung cancer are the result of outside factors, some cases do arise in non-smokers who have a family history of the disease. Patients with a parent, sibling or child who has developed lung cancer are at an increased risk and should consult with an ETMC First Physician to discuss possible screening options.

Screenings for lung cancer

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Lung cancer is often identified incidentally when a chest X-ray is performed for another reason.

The ETMC Cancer Institute offers low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans to screen for lung cancer in smokers. Recent guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists recommend annual LDCT screenings for smokers and former smokers at high risk for developing lung cancer. The test takes less than 10 minutes to complete and helps detect lung cancer early while it is still treatable.

Patients who meet the following criteria are eligible for an LDCT screening:

  • Age 55 to 74 and be a current smoker or have quit smoking less than 15 years ago.
  • Smoked one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 1-800-648-8004 and press 1.

Treatment for lung cancer

Lung cancer treatment is determined on a case-by-case basis. Our experts at the ETMC Cancer Institute work together to help formulate detailed treatment plans to help fight lung cancer with advanced treatment and therapy modalities as well as personalized support services. In most cases, surgical treatment is recommended as it has been shown to improve the five-year survival rate to higher than 70 percent – the survival rate is only 15 percent when detected late.

For more information regarding lung cancer, schedule an appointment with an ETMC First Physician.

ETMC offers special lung cancer screening for smokers

The ETMC Cancer Institute is now offering a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan for only $150 to screen for lung cancer in smokers.

Recent guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists suggests annual screening with LDCT for smokers and former smokers at high risk for developing lung cancer.

Patients must meet these criteria:

  • Age 55 to 74 and be a current smoker or have quit smoking less than 15 years ago.
  • Smoked one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

The test takes less than 10 minutes. Detecting lung cancer early and treating it surgically has been shown to improve the five-year survival rate to higher than 70 percent (the rate is 15 percent when detected late).

To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 1-800-648-8004 and press 1.