What are The Symptoms Of Lungs Cancer, Treatment & Prognosis

Lung cancer is a malignant neoplasm in the respiratory system (lungs and bronchi). In addition to breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer, it is one of the most common cancers worldwide. Unfortunately, the number of illnesses continues to increase, especially among women.

Short version:

    • Smoking causes 85% of lung cancers.
    • Lung cancer is caused by a change in the genetic material due to chronic damage.
    • Lung carcinomas can be divided into two groups.
    • Because symptoms are unrecognized or misinterpreted, lung cancer is often discovered by accident during examinations.
    • The treatment of a lung tumor depends on the type of cancer.

In Austria, around 2,500 men and almost 1,200 women suffer from bronchial carcinoma each year. Thus lung cancer is second only to prostate cancer in males and third in women after breast and colon cancer. Most cases are detected between the 55th and the 65th year of life. However, patients can be significantly younger.

The main risk factor for the development of lung cancer is cigarette smoking: Around 85% of all cases can be attributed to tobacco consumption. Hereditary predispositions or contact with other harmful substances (such as arsenic, radon or asbestos), on the other hand, play a subordinate role. 3-5% of the diseases are caused by passive smoking.

From surgery to Targeted Therapy: Depending on the type and stage, lung cancer is treated differently.

Anyone smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for over 20 years increases their lung cancer risk 30 to 40 times. By contrast, a familial accumulation only leads to a doubling or tripling of the risk.

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How does lung cancer develop?

In the cells of the mucous membranes of the bronchi and in the alveoli, there is a change in the genetic material due to prolonged chronic damage (for example, chronic inflammation from cigarette smoke). After a long time, this change means that the normal control mechanisms for the growth and death of cells are no longer effective and a malignant tumor develops. At an early stage of development, this process can sometimes be reversed, such as when the damaging effects are stopped.

Basically, two groups of lung cancer are differentiated:

    1. Non-small cell lung carcinoma

The non-small cell type accounts for around three quarters of cancers of the lung. It is roughly subdivided into:

    • squamous cell carcinoma
    • the adenocarcinoma
    • the large cell carcinoma
    1. Small cell lung carcinoma

Small cell lung cancer (about 20% of the disease) spreads rapidly through the bloodstream and lymphatics, but is better for chemotherapy.

This distinction is important from a medical point of view, because the therapy is targeted accordingly.

Which symptoms occur?

In those cases of lung cancer that are discovered at an early stage, these are generally incidental findings: pulmonary x-raying is actually done for quite different reasons, e.g. in case of release for surgical procedures or severe infections suggesting pneumonia.

The most significant problem is that the disease remains asymptomatic for a long time. Often, the typical symptoms, such as coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue or back pain, misinterpreted or ignored. Since the majority of sufferers are smokers with chronic bronchitis and often have cardiovascular problems, the symptoms are attributed to them.

A doctor’s visit is therefore often delayed for a long time. Only the appearance of blood in the sputum or severe weight loss are alarming. More than two-thirds of all cases of lung cancer are therefore diagnosed at a local or systemic (i.e., distant metastasis) stage.

Unfortunately, previous large-scale studies on the possibility of early diagnosis have not shown sufficiently satisfactory results to be meaningful to broad sections of the population. A so-called spiral computed tomography (spiral CT) with low radiation dose is therefore recommended as a preventive check only certain risk groups: chronic smokers over 50 years, especially if at the same time a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is present; in addition, in the case of lung cancer in the family or a workplace that is burdened by inhaled carcinogens (carcinogenic substances). However, the last two factors only seem relevant if the person smokes himself at the same time.

non-small-cell-lung-cancer

How does the doctor make a diagnosis?

If lung cancer is suspected, the patient is referred to a specialized department where a complete examination is made as soon as possible. Among other things, the stage of the disease, the type of tumor and the spread in the body is examined.

For this purpose, different examination methods such as computed tomography, ultrasound, biopsy or a PET scan are performed.

Which treatment methods are available?

The choice of treatment for lung cancer depends largely on the type of cancer and the stage of the cancer.

Treatment options range from surgery to radiation and chemotherapy, to molecular biology therapy.

What is the prognosis for lung cancer?

In contrast to other types of cancer, in the case of bronchial carcinoma, there are no meaningful early detection measures or long-term successful treatment methods. Lung cancer is the only cancer in which the rate of new disease is nearly identical to that of deaths.

Taking all the cases together, current treatment methods achieve a 5-year survival rate of only 15%. However, when early-stage non-small cell lung cancer is detected, around 75 out of every 100 people treated surgically are still alive five years later.

At the same time, lung cancer is virtually the only cancer that has a prevalent and avoidable risk factor. Prevention through smoking cessation is therefore at the forefront.

Especially in the case of lung cancer, it must be emphasized how important it is to participate in the clinical trials offered, as it provides access to new drugs that are not yet on the market, and one can expect further improvements. Moreover, it is only possible to further advance the progress in the treatment of this problematic disease.

As regards therapy, great progress has been made in all areas in recent years. It has become much better in terms of effectiveness and tolerability. This leads to an improvement in quality of life, lifespan and a reduction in side effects.

What can i do on my own?

If you are a smoker, stop as soon as possible!

There are studies showing that certain drugs used to treat lung cancer are less effective when smoked during treatment. The effect of radiation therapy is also disturbed, and surgery increases the rate of complications.

In addition, it is known that patients who have undergone successful surgery have a higher risk of developing another lung cancer if they continue to consume nicotine than those who have quit smoking.

In addition, of course, all health care measures are also useful in the case of this disease: such as vitamin and fiber rich diet with restriction of sugar and fat content and sufficient exercise in the fresh air.

Different Types Of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a malignant tissue proliferation in the lungs, mainly from the mucous membranes of the bronchi. The medical term bronchial carcinoma hides numerous tumors with different cell types and therefore different forms of therapy and prognosis.

In the case of bronchial carcinoma, a distinction is made between small cell and non-small cell tumors

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) includes squamous cell carcinoma, which accounts for half of all lung cancers. The tumor cells do not grow as fast as e.g. in small cell bronchial carcinoma. It can usually be operated on well because it is predominantly located centrally in the lungs and more distinct than the small cell lung cancer. Also, the cancer cells grow less quickly, but also do not respond so well to a chemo or radiation therapy.

Adenocarcinoma also belongs to the group of non-small cell lung carcinomas. It has some special status, as it occurs mainly in non-smoking middle-aged women. Otherwise, it can be said that about every tenth cell-type lung cancer is an adenocarcinoma.

The third representative of this group is the rarely occurring large-cell bronchial carcinoma, which accounts for five to ten percent of all malignant lung tumors. All three tumor types grow more slowly compared to small cell bronchial carcinoma and do not form metastases (secondary tumors) as quickly.

Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) is also referred to as oat cell cancer because the tumor cells are very similar to oat grains. This type of lung cancer is extremely fast and invasive and early causes metastases in the lymph nodes, liver, kidneys, brain and skeletal system (predominantly spine). As a form of treatment, a chemotherapy or radiation therapy is available here, under which the tumor size can greatly reduce or reduce due to the cell specificity. Surgery is performed if the cancer is found only in one lung and near lymph nodes. However, as this type of cancer does not usually occur in just one area, surgery as a single treatment is not useful. Often there are also recurrences.

Small cell bronchial carcinomas also have as a special feature the formation of a paraneoplastic syndrome, i. The tumor cells produce hormone-like substances that can lead to a variety of endocrinological symptoms. Since 80% of all patients already have metastasis at the time of first diagnosis, this tumor has the worst prognosis.

types-of-lungs-cancer

Special shapes :

    • Pancoast tumor

The tumor sits at a certain point in the lung tip and has just through this situation a typical symptoms. The most common symptoms here are unilateral shoulder pain radiating to the arm, ribs, neck and back. This symptomatology is due to the ingrowth of the tumor into surrounding nerve tracts. Often a Horner syndrome also occurs. Horner’s syndrome is the combination of drooping eyelid, narrowing of the pupil, withdrawal of the eyeball and reversed perspiration on one side. As a therapy, a combined chemo and radiation therapy followed by surgery is recommended if the condition of the patient allows it and there are no metastases in adjacent lymph nodes or other organs.

    • Pleural Mesothelioma

This rather rare malignant tumor starts from the pleura, which covers the lungs. Although it can greatly affect the function of the lungs and lead to severe breathing difficulties, it does not formally belong to the group of different types of lung cancer. Causes of the pleural mesothelioma are mostly asbestos contacts. Asbestos is the most important risk factor for this type of cancer. Since 1977, pleural mesothelioma has been recognized as an occupational disease in recent occupational asbestos exposure. It grows quite slowly compared to other tumors. Decades may pass between the inhalation of asbestos-containing dusts and the manifestation of a pleural mesothelioma.

In the end, however, it destroys and displaces other organs such as the lungs, heart, and diaphragm and forms metastases. It also comes very often to a pleural effusion. This is an accumulation of often purulent, often bloody fluid in the chest. In the treatment of pleural mesothelioma, the affected tissues are removed and replaced if necessary by artificial sculptures. Accompanying radiation and / or chemotherapy can be used.