In the United States, lung cancer is presently the leading cause of death from cancer in both men and women. Normally lung cancer starts out in the cells lining the bronchi. Lung cells usually reproduce to maintain healthy lung tissue and repair old, aged, damaged cells. If for some reason the growth mechanism is off, the cell growth can become too much and the cells can divide too fast. This process can continue and grow in an uncontrolled way causing a tumor.

Carcinoma of the lung has the ability to metastasize early. Common sites of metastasis include brain, bone, the other lung, liver, adrenals, lymph nodes, and skin.

Metastasis to the lungs is commonly from cancer that originated from the breast, colon, prostate, kidney, thyroid, stomach, rectum, cervix, testis, bone and from melanoma.

It is very important to try to contain the rate of cancer cell growth. It can also be important to build the body’s immune system while doing an anti-tumor program. The more you build your body’s system, the greater strength the body has to help you fight off the cancer.

Lung Anatomy

The lungs are considered the organs of respiration. The lungs occupy both sides of the chest cavity inside the rib cage. The right lung has three lobes and the left lung has two lobes. The bottom of each lung extends down to the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the major breathing muscle that separates the chest from the abdominal cavity.

Types of lung cancers

There are many different types of lung cancers but two main histological types. These two types are:

1.         Non-small cell lung cancer which has three subtypes:

o          Squamous cell frequently originating in the larger bronchi and sometimes spreading by extension and lymph node metastasis.

o          Adenocarcinoma of the lung commonly peripheral and found in the mucus glands. This type usually spreads through the blood stream.

o          Large cell carcinoma is usually found near the surface of the lung.

2.         Small cell lung cancer tends to be more aggressive and spreads quickly. This type is also highly associated with smoking.

Symptoms

The most frequent signs and symptoms are:

•          Cough is the most common symptom of lung cancer.

•          Hemoptysis or coughing up blood.

•          Dyspnea or difficulty in breathing. Dyspnea is greatly associated with cigarette smoking and emphysema.

•          Wheezing can occur with partial blockage or obstruction.

•          Pneumonia

•          Chest, shoulder, or arm pain

•          Weight loss

•          Bone pain

•          Hoarseness

•          Headaches or seizures

•          Swelling of the face

•          Pleural effusion is when there is some fluid in the lung or lungs.

Etiology

It is believed that cigarette smoking is the number one reason for lung cancers. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death. The more cigarettes smoked in a day and the younger the age of starting to smoke, the greater the risk of lung cancer. The major chemicals in cigarettes other than nicotine are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS), nicotine by-products, metals such as cadmium and nickel, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), and radioactive polonium 210 (210Po). Elements of cigarette vapor include oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water, nitrogen oxides, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, benzene, and toluene.

New studies are showing that alcoholism is associated with significant immune suppression. The correlation is shown by changes in the interferon system and by the altered activity of the natural killer cells.

Lung cancer can develop in regions of scar areas such as scars from tuberculosis. This type of lung cancer diagnosis is often difficult to make.

Exposure to certain industrial substances such as arsenic, some organic chemicals, occupational or environmental exposures to radon and asbestos, is also considered great risk factors.

More risk factors include radiation exposure from occupational, medical, and environmental sources.

Air pollution is becoming more and more a risk factor. Some possible air pollutants are diesel exhaust, tar and pitch, arsenic, dioxin, cadmium, chromium, and nickel compounds.

A diet low in fruit and vegetables is linked to an increase in lung cancer. Studies show a positive correlation between the intake of cholesterol and dietary fat and lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Glossary

•          Adenocarcinoma: a type of cancer cell derived from glandular tissue or in which the tumor cells form recognizable glandular structures.

•          Atelectasis: the collapse of a lung

•          Benign:not malignant; not recurrent; not cancerous.

•          Biopsy: the removal and examination of a small piece of tissue from the living body to determine if cancer cells are present.

•          Bronchi: the large airway that runs from the trachea to the lungs.

•          Bronchioles: the smaller air passages that lead from the bronchi further into the lung tissue.

•          Bronchoscope: an instrument for inspecting the interior of the lungs and allows a way to get specimens for culture or biopsy.

•          Bronchoscopy: examination of the bronchi through the use of a bronchoscope.

•          Carcinogens: any substance that has the ability to cause cancer.

•          Carcinogenic: any substance that causes cancer.

•          Chemotherapy: a treatment for disease by using chemical agents.

•          Dyspnea: difficulty in breathing.

•          Hemoptysis: the coughing or spitting up of blood.

•          Malignancy: a cancerous growth which has the tendency to progress.

•          Metastatic: the transfer of a cancer from one organ to another.

•          Metastatic: the transfer of a cancer from one organ to another.

•          Radiation: a treatment for disease using high-frequency ionizing radiation.

•          Trachea: the windpipe connecting the larynx and the bronchi.

•          Tumor: a growth of tissue in which the division of cells is uncontrolled and progressive.

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