According to studies, lung cancer is the second most common cancer among both men and women. As per the American Cancer Society, nearly 228,820 new cases of lung cancer were reported in 2020. Mainly observed in older adults, lung cancer affects those between the ages of 65 and 70 years. It is rarely observed among those below 45 years. Lung cancer begins in the respiratory area, specifically the lungs. It starts when the cells in the lungs start to grow uncontrollably. Here’s everything you need to know about this disease.
There are two major categories of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and nonsmall-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). About nine out of ten lung cancer cases are diagnosed as NSCLC. In addition, SCLC grows at a faster rate than NSCLC.
- Small cell lung cancer
Also called “oat-cell” cancer, SCLC begins in the bronchial area. The cancerous cells quickly grow and start to spread to other parts of the body. Majorly caused by tobacco smoking, this form of lung cancer comprises about 20 percent of the total cases. SCLC is a dangerous form of cancer that requires urgent and immediate treatment.
- Nonsmall-cell lung cancer
NSCLC is a common form of lung cancer. About nine out of ten cases of lung cancer are of this type. Unlike SCLC, NSCLC spreads slowly. The symptoms do not show up until a later stage. This category of lung cancer is further classified into three groups: adenocarcinoma of the lung, squamous cell, and large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma.
Other types of lung cancer are lung nodules and metastatic lung cancer. Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung, large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma, salivary gland-type lung carcinoma, lung carcinoids, and mesothelioma are some of the rare forms of lung cancer.
One of the major causes of lung cancer is tobacco consumption and smoking. Both active and passive smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, particularly SCLC. Other common causes include the following:
- Radiation therapy
A person who has undergone radiation therapy for other forms of cancer is at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
- Radon gas exposure
When uranium naturally breaks down, radon is released in gaseous form. This gas becomes a part of the air that we breathe in. If the level of radon gas reaches unsafe levels, it can enter buildings and homes. This increases the risk of lung cancer for those who live in these areas.
- Exposure to carcinogenic substances
Asbestos, chromium, arsenic, and nickel are known carcinogens. Exposure to these substances at the workplace or any other area that one frequents increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
- Family history
Those who have a parent, child, or sibling with lung cancer will have a higher probability of developing it.
Some of the commonly observed symptoms of lung cancer are the following.
- A different kind of cough that is persistent
- Constant headache
- Chest pain
- Hoarseness of voice
- Persistent muscle ache or bone pain
- Sudden weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
The form of treatment usually depends on several factors. These include the type of lung cancer, the stage of cancer, and the person’s overall age. Based on these factors, an oncologist can recommend any of the following methods of treatment.
- Radiation therapy
- Stereotactic body radiotherapy
- Targeted drug therapy
- Palliative care
Although there is no specific diet for lung cancer, certain foods can help in alleviating the pain and discomfort caused by the symptoms. Similarly, avoiding certain foods can help in the healing process. Generally, it is best to have a well-balanced diet with whole grains, healthy sources of fats, protein-rich foods, antioxidant-rich fruits, and veggies.