Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the US, but is currently the leading cause of death by cancer according to the CDC. Smoking is the largest risk factor for developing lung cancer. Fortunately, this means that you can easily reduce your risk factors by quitting smoking.
What is Lung Cancer?
X-ray image of lung cancer. Image courtesy of the National Cancer Institute
Lung cancer is a disease that manifests in the lungs, which are the pair of organs that take oxygen in from the air and release carbon dioxide. Cancerous cells grow and divide at an uncontrolled rate, causing tumors to form within the lung tissue.
Over time, these tumors can cause difficulties breathing. Lung cancer can also metastasize, which means that it can travel to other parts of the body. When a cancer spreads from another part of the body to the lungs, it is still considered its original type of cancer. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lungs is still considered breast cancer.
Lung cancer is deadly for several reasons. They tend to be aggressive, which means that this cancer grows and spread quickly. On top of that, lung cancer is hard to find at early stages because symptoms are not always present early on. By the time that symptoms do appear, the cancer has spread far enough to affect the body’s normal function.
By recognizing the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, you will know when to visit your doctor. A prompt diagnosis may catch a cancer at an early stage, when it has not yet spread far. It is generally easier to treat cancers when they are at an early stage.
Types of Lung Cancer
There are two main types of lung cancer, each of which is treated in a different way. These cancers each occur within different tissues of the lungs. The exact type of cancer is named for the way the cells appear under a microscope.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: The most common type of lung cancer, occurring in approximately 85% of patients. There are several subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer, including adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
Small Cell Lung Cancer: The second most common type of lung cancer, occurring in 10 – 15% of patients. This type of cancer tends to be more aggressive, spreading quickly and likely to metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body. The subtypes of small cell lung cancer include small cell carcinoma and combined small cell carcinoma.
Lung Carcinoid Tumors are a rare type of lung cancer, making up less than 5% of all cases. This type of lung cancer is slow growing and rarely spreads.
Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer
In some people, lung cancer may be asymptomatic at early stage. Others may experience one or several of the symptoms listed below.
Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:
Wheezing or shortness of breath
A persistent cough, especially one that gets worse
Recurring bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis
Loss of appetite
Coughing up blood
If you experience any of these, consult with your doctor. Early detection is the best way to catch lung cancer before it spreads. You may undergo an exam, chest imaging procedures, and/or biopsy (tissue samples) in order for your doctor to make a diagnosis.
Treatment for Lung Cancer at Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology
At Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology, we treat lung cancer using radiation therapy. This type of therapy is extremely precise, allowing us to target the tumor while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.
Radiation therapy for lung cancer may be used…
When a tumor cannot be safely removed due to its size or location in the lung
When person does not want surgery
In conjunction with another therapy such as chemotherapy
Before surgery to reduce the size of a tumor
After surgery to ensure all cancerous cells have been killed
To relieve symptoms (palliate) caused by lung cancer (for example, to reduce the size of a tumor which is obstructing airways)
Radiation therapy can be used to treat lung cancer either on its own or in conjunction with another therapy. Your doctor will work with a team of specialists to plan the most effective course of treatment for you.
Serving Anderson & Greenville SC, and Surrounding Areas
We welcome patients and family from all over the world, but mostly those living within a hundred-mile radius of Anderson and Greenville, South Carolina.
AnMed Health & Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology are charter members of Levine Cancer Institute's cancer care network. Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Cancer Institute aims to build "a cancer institute without walls," by increasing access to specialist consultations, research offerings, program offerings and services to member institutions throughout the Carolinas.