The most common cause of death from lung cancer is a malignancy or abnormal cell growth that has broken away from the control of the body’s immune system. Risk factors for developing lung cancer include smoking tobacco products, exposure to second-hand smoke, working with wood dust, and eating lots of processed meat. These risk factors can lead to changes in your cells which could potentially make you more susceptible to lung cancer.
However, even if you do not have a life-threatening disease today, it does not mean that you cannot still develop lung cancer later on. Cancers are like long-term illnesses; they simply become easier to treat as the years pass by.
According to the National Cancer Institute, four out of five cases of lung cancer are due to breathing problems such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. However, these conditions are clearly linked to smoking cigarettes.
A lesser known risk factor for lung cancer is radium. Radium is a radioactive element that comes from rocks containing uranium and other elements. If you breathe in radium, it may stick inside your lungs along with other radioactive materials you breathe in daily.
Doctors do not consider inhaling radium unsafe, but researchers have documented instances in which people exposed to large amounts of radium developed lung tumors. For this reason, governments regulate emissions of radiation into the air.
What causes lung cancer?
There are many reasons why you might develop lung cancer. These include smoking tobacco or other substances, breathing in secondhand smoke, working with coal dust, living with asbestos, or being exposed to ionizing radiation from medical tests.
Lung cancer is caused by both genetic and environmental factors. It can sometimes be identified early but often at a stage where it has too much spread for treatment to work and instead relies on chemotherapy. But knowing how the disease develops may one day help us identify it earlier.
Many researchers are looking into genes and the environment contributing to lung cancer. Some have suggested that certain diet patterns such as eating lots of fruit and vegetables or fish could reduce the risk of developing lung cancer.
We also know that obesity is a risk factor because people who are overweight increase their odds of having poor-quality cells which may eventually lead to cancers including lung cancer.
Obesity is related to increased intake of calories (overall amount of food) as well as refined/added sugars (which are not typically found in foods like fruits and vegetables).
It’s important to note that even if someone is obese, they don’t need to have bad sugar habits – just enough to be unhealthy. Unhealthy levels of glucose and insulin due to excessive added and processed sugars cause abnormally high growth rates of cells to occur, resulting in pre-cancerous conditions and cancer.
Who is at risk for lung cancer?
Although most cases of lung cancer are linked to smoking, this diagnosis should also be looked at in non-smokers. As people age, they become more susceptible to developing lung cancer due to the existence of pre-cancerous conditions or diseases. Because it’s difficult to diagnose early lung cancer, it may not be as amenable to treatment as other types of cancer.
That said, there are ways to increase your odds of catching lung cancer before it grows too large. The first way is by screening yourself annually with chest x-rays. Following that, annual screenings using tomography scans (chemotherapy sensitive) and mammograms (breast cancer-specific) are recommended. Be aware that both have limitations.
However, if you have a family history of lung cancer, then add one year to your life expectancy. If you believe you might have a genetic predisposition but aren’t sure, ask about testing your genes.
How can I lower my risk for lung cancer?
Although finding out how much you know about your own lung health is helpful, even if you are diagnosed with lung disease, it’s also important to keep learning more about this condition to help you stay informed and check off one of those “things you should know” boxes that tend to be very common when people talk about lung health.
There are several ways to reduce your risk for developing lung cancer, including not smoking, staying involved in sports or other activities, eating well, and getting regular screenings.
In fact, the American College of Chest Physicians recommends screening every year for high-risk individuals—such as smokers and patients who have an elevated risk due to a chronic illness such as COPD or diabetes.
And while we aren’t sure why some people develop lung cancer, there are many things you can do to decrease your risk including quitting tobacco products, being active, eating well, and keeping up with vaccinations.
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Symptoms of lung cancer include any that cause you discomfort, such as shortness of breath, pain in your chest, or feeling like you cannot breathe. However, there are also many other less noticeable symptoms.
These can be found by performing a self-examine with your hands so you know what normal feels like. Additionally, watching for changes in skin color1 is important when looking for signs of lung cancer.
Skin color1 refers to the appearance of your skin under natural light. When your body senses that something is amiss, it prepares you for battle or escapes. In cases where there is no fight-or-flight response, the skin becomes paler (less brown) and gets wrinkled.
Can I beat lung cancer?
Doctors usually know right away if someone has lung cancer. This is because it shows up in your chest x-ray, which is done for other reasons. If there’s a spot or abnormal shadow, you can then have a more detailed look at your lungs by computerized tomography (CT) scan.
These tests look inside the lungs and find an area of concern. Then they remove a sample through surgery to determine what they are dealing with.
Surgery is typically used to help figure out whether you have malignant (cancerous) tumors or not, but it may also be used to take a biopsy of a suspected tumor.
Usually when doctors refer to “lung cancer” they mean non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), since this is the most common type. However, people sometimes ask about their cases too much after hearing about small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC).
Although SCLC is less common than NSCLC, it accounts for nearly 20% of all diagnosed lung cancers.
What is the treatment for lung cancer?
There are many different treatments for lung cancer, depending on the type of cancer and your age.
There are two main types of treatments for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): surgery and chemotherapy.
If you have just one mild risk factor for lung cancer, such as smoking, most doctors recommend that you get a “watchful waiting” approach. This means watching with radiation or medical screens to look for early signs of cancer.
However, if you have a strong family history or previous personal experience with breast, colorectal, ovary, prostate, or other cancers, then you should discuss specific screening tests in detail with your doctor.
For people who already have symptoms of lung cancer, there are a number of standard treatments, including medications, radiotherapy, and some types of surgical therapy.
In fact, about 40% of those diagnosed with localized NSCLC also receive surgery, often in combination with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy combined with targeted therapy is common now for advanced diseases due to its effectiveness in improving survival time.
What can I do to prevent lung cancer?
There are lots of things you can do to avoid developing lung cancer. The most important thing is to not smoke or use other forms of tobacco.
Also, make sure to get regular screenings for your health. This includes getting flu shots, maintaining a good diet, exercising regularly, and more.
Of course, there’s no way to avoid smoking entirely, but if you can stop now, that’s excellent. Beyond that, however, you should seek out strategies to keep yourself healthy.
You can ask your doctor about keeping an exercise routine as part of your healthy lifestyle. They may even suggest something specific such as swimming or yoga.
For people who still want to reduce their risk of contracting lung cancer, these exercises can help. Indeed, several studies have shown that including 200 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week is associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer.
This article also discusses recommended diets for disease prevention. Keep in mind that just like with any otherwise healthy food plan, starting with 1 day(s) of unlimited red meat intake can be beneficial.
What is research like for lung cancer?
There are many cancers that affect your lungs, but we will focus on lung cancer here. Lung cancer is not usually caused by smoking, but approximately 90% of cases do involve tobacco exposure. Besides smoking, other common causes include air pollution (soil, water, and fumes), second-hand smoke, and occupational exposures such as coal and dust.
There are also some risk factors that can be difficult to change such as genetics and age. Older people tend to get it more often than younger people. Among young adults ages 35 to 40, around 1 in 100 cases may be due to genetic mutations. Above this age, it is much more likely to be due to genetic defects.
With early-stage disease, treatment typically includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted biological therapy. Because genes play a large role in developing lung cancer, very few medications have been found to help reduce symptoms and increase survival.
The rarity of lung cancer has made clinical trials challenging samples to test because there are so few patients. In one study at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, only 2% of people participated who were eligible and had an interest in joining. These studies take time to complete and the results can be hard to understand.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, accounting for about one-third of all cancer deaths. However, because lung cancer often doesn’t cause any symptoms until it’s advanced, many people aren’t aware they have it until it’s too late.
That’s why it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, as well as how to get screened for the disease. If you or someone you love is at risk for lung cancer, share this article with them to help spread awareness.