Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death, responsible
for an estimated 160,000 deaths in the United States annually. There
are two major types: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung
cancer, so named because of how the cells look under a microscope.
Non-small cell lung cancer is more common, and it generally grows and
spreads more slowly. There are three main types of non-small cell lung
cancer, named for the type of cells in which the cancer develops: squamous
cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell lung cancer. Small cell
lung cancer grows more quickly and is more likely to spread to other
organs in the body.
Lung cancer is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms.
A persistent cough that gets worse over time
Multiple exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) results in damage to DNA in the cells of the body.
Tobacco smoke is the biggest carcinogen, responsible for 85 percent of all lung cancers in the United States. Risk increases with the amount of tobacco used, and the amount of time it has been used. Non-smokers exposed to tobacco smoke are also at risk for developing lung cancer. Other risk factors include the following.
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with lung cancer, you should see your health care provider. He or she will evaluate your medical history, smoking history, exposure to environmental and occupational substances, and family history of cancer, and will perform a physical exam. You may be sent for a chest X ray and other tests. These include a sputum cytology, the microscopic examination of cells obtained from a deep-cough sample of mucus in the lungs. A biopsythe removal of a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologistcan confirm whether you have cancer.
If cancer is present, your provider will want to learn the stage (or extent) of the disease to find out whether the cancer has spread, particularly to the brain or bones, using tests such as computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), radionuclide scan, and bone scan.
The best means of prevention is to never start smoking or using chewing
tobacco, or to stop using tobacco products. A healthy diet is an important
part of prevention.
A treatment plan depends on the cell type, stage of disease, possibility
for removing the tumor, and the patient's ability to survive surgery.
Various therapies can be used to treat lung cancer.
Surgery is the only treatment that offers hope of a cure of non-small
cell lung cancer. Removal of a small part of the lung is a segmental
or wedge resection, removal of an entire lobe of the lung is a lobectomy,
and removal of an entire lung is a pneumonectomy. Radiation therapy
is used before surgery to shrink a tumor, or after surgery to destroy
remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy may also be used instead
of surgery or to relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath.
A comprehensive treatment plan for lung cancer may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies. Ask your team of health care providers about the best ways to incorporate these therapies into your overall treatment plan.
Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include the following.
Some acupuncturists prefer to work with a patient only after the completion
of conventional medical cancer therapy. Others will provide acupuncture
and/or herbal therapy during active chemotherapy or radiation. Acupuncturists
treat cancer patients based on an individualized assessment of the
excesses and deficiencies of qi located in various meridians. In many
cases of cancer-related symptoms, a qi deficiency is usually detected
in the spleen or kidney meridians.
Periodic follow-up is useful in helping to detect recurrence of the lung cancer or other smoking-related cancers. Frequent follow-up and rehabilitation for loss of lung function from cancer, surgery, or other treatment may be necessary.
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