Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs. Which are the two spongy organs in the chest that allow us to breathe. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide and it is responsible for more deaths than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). NSCLC is the most common type, accounting for about 85% of lung cancers, while SCLC is less common and more aggressive. The symptoms can include a persistent cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood and unintended weight loss.
Lung Cancer Symptoms
Lung cancer symptoms can vary from person to person and can also depend on the type and stage of the cancer.
- Persistent cough: A cough that lasts for more than two weeks and does not go away with medication can be a sign.
- Chest pain: Pain in the chest, shoulder or back that worsens with deep breathing or coughing can be a sign.
- Shortness of breath: Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath can occur due to the growth of the tumor in the lung. That can obstruct the airways.
- Unexplained weight loss: Weight loss without trying can be a sign of many cancers.
- Hoarseness: A persistent change in the voice or hoarseness can occur.
- Fatigue: Unexplained fatigue or weakness can be a symptom.
- Blood in cough: Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum can be a sign.
- Loss of appetite: A lack of appetite or unexplained weight loss can be a symptom.
It is important to note that some of these symptoms can also occur due to other health conditions, so it is essential to consult a doctor if they persist for more than two weeks.
Causes Of Lung Cancer
There are several causes of lung cancer including:
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. When a person smokes, they inhale carcinogens. These are harmful substances that can cause cancer. These carcinogens damage the cells lining the lungs and can cause them to grow uncontrollably. With time, this can lead to the development of tumors in the lungs. And can then spread to other parts of the body.
Cigarette smoke contains over 70 known carcinogens including chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde and arsenic. When these chemicals are inhaled they can cause changes in the DNA of lung cells, leading to mutations that can cause cancer. The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes they smoke, the greater their risk of developing it.
Secondhand smoke can also cause lung cancer. When someone inhales secondhand smoke. They are breathing in many of the same harmful chemicals as a smoker. These chemicals can damage the cells in the lungs and cause them to mutate and grow uncontrollably, leading to the development of cancer. The risk of developing it from secondhand smoke is lower than that from smoking directly. But it still poses a significant risk particularly for those who are exposed to it on a regular basis.
While most cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking or exposure to harmful substances like radon, air pollution and asbestos. Genetics can also play a role in the development. Some people are genetically predisposed to it due to inherited mutations or alterations in certain genes that control cell growth and division.
I.e.. mutations in the TP53 gene have been associated with a higher risk of developing it as well as other types of cancer. Other genes that have been linked include EGFR, KRAS and ALK. Some Times, genetic testing may be recommended for individuals with a family history of lung cancer or other risk factors to determine their risk of developing the disease.
Occupational exposure to certain chemicals and substances can increase the risk of developing it. This includes exposure to asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust, radon and some types of chemicals used in the manufacturing of metals, plastics and other products. People who work in certain industries such as mining, construction and chemical manufacturing may be at a higher risk due to exposure to these substances. It is important to follow workplace safety guidelines and wear protective equipment to minimize the risk of exposure.
Radon exposure is another leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil and rock. It can enter homes and buildings through cracks and other openings in the foundation and accumulate to high levels. When radon decays it produces radioactive particles that can be inhaled into the lungs. Where they can damage the cells and cause cancer over time. Radon exposure is more common in certain geographic regions and can be tested with specialized kits. It is important to reduce radon levels in homes and buildings to prevent lung cancer.
Air pollution is a complex mixture of different chemicals and particles including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, sulfur dioxide and small particles called particulate matter. Exposure to air pollution can damage lung cells and tissues. And leading to inflammation and oxidative stress. With time, this damage can increase the risk of lung cancer.
In addition to causing direct damage to the lungs. Air pollution can also contribute to the formation of other lung cancer risk factors. Such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. People who live or work in areas with high levels of air pollution. Such as near highways or in cities with high traffic congestion, may be at increased risk of lung cancer.
Lung cancer is a serious and often deadly disease that requires early detection and prompt treatment. It is important to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of lung cancer. Especially for individuals who smoke or have a history of exposure to carcinogens. Quitting smoking, avoiding exposure to harmful substances and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. If you experience any symptoms of lung cancer such as persistent coughing, chest pain or difficulty breathing. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.