Lung cancer is prevalent in our society, with 1 in 17 people diagnosed with the disease in the United States alone. Bringing awareness to lung cancer is crucial since it can sometimes slip unnoticed and spread throughout the body. Understanding the different types and symptoms is the first step in the fight.
Early Symptoms of Lung Cancer
If you have been a heavy smoker and are between the ages of 50 and 77, it is essential to understand the risk of developing lung cancer. Smoking 1 pack of cigarettes daily for 20 years or more indicates that you should get screened.
Symptoms of lung cancer might be overlooked since they can be unexpected or mistaken for a minor sickness like a cold or the flu.
Some specific symptoms include:
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum
- Chest pain that worsens with deep breathing and coughing
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don't go away/continue to come back
- Balance problems
- Arm/shoulder pain or eye problems
It is important to note that these symptoms are not likely to happen simultaneously. Other symptoms can also indicate lung cancer, so visit your doctor if you have any concerns.
Types of Lung Cancer
There are two primary types of lung cancer; small-cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer. These are broken down into smaller categories but can be generalized under these umbrella terms.
Small-Cell Lung Cancer
Around 20% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed as small cell lung cancer and are typically associated with cigarette smoking. Small cell lung cancer is classified by neuroendocrine tumors, which are rare tumors that develop in the neuroendocrine system.
The two types of small-cell lung cancer are distinguished by how they appear under a microscope. These types are small-cell carcinoma and combined small-cell carcinoma.
- Small cell carcinoma is fast-growing and usually starts in the breathing tubes. It creates large tumors that spread quickly throughout the body. Treatment includes surgery to remove the small tumors and chemotherapy, which can be combined with radiation therapy.
- Combined small cell carcinoma has the components of small cell carcinoma mixed with the different classifications of non-small cell carcinoma. This is typically treated with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. Surgery will only follow this treatment to remove any further tumors.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer is more common, affecting 80% of lung cancer cases. This type of cancer grows and spreads to other parts of the body slower than small-cell lung cancer. There are three main types of non-small cell lung cancer: Adenocarcinoma, squamous cell cancer, and large-cell carcinoma.
- Adenocarcinoma is often found in the outer areas of the lungs. It affects the epithelial tissues of the body, which line specific internal organs and release substances such as mucus. Adenocarcinoma lung cancer is the most common in the United States and typically affects those who have never smoked. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is usually found in the center of the lungs next to the air tubes. This particular cancer grows large tumors which can cause shortness of breath and a persistent cough. Surgery is the standard treatment to remove the growths, and chemotherapy or radiation may also be recommended if the cancer is widespread.
- Large-cell carcinoma can occur in any part of the lungs and tends to spread faster than the other types of non-small cell lung cancer. It is named after its large, abnormal-looking cells. Surgery is considered to be the best option for removal of this cancer.
Lung Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment with Arnot Health
Arnot Health uses low-dose CT scans to detect potential problems. The screening gives a low amount of radiation to help show the early stages of lung cancer that might typically be hard to see in an x-ray. It can help detect lung cancer early, increasing survival rates among smokers by as much as 20%.
Our team is here to help support you and your family by providing the best care possible. Our team of fellowship-trained doctors have advanced cancer-focused education and experience so that you can feel confident in your care.
If you have any questions or concerns about potentially having lung cancer, don't hesitate to reach out.