Living with cancer is quite possibly the most challenging, exhausting and terrifying experience facing humans today. Those who haven’t experienced the threat of cancer in their own life can hardly imagine the difficulties this disease brings. Perhaps the greatest fear is that of the unknown. Cancer brings with it countless questions, many of which are unanswerable. Lung cancer, however, is one of the most thoroughly researched and experienced cancers, and many answers are available.
The year 2010 saw over 200,000 new cases of lung cancer in the United States alone. Lung cancers are typically divided into two major categories: small cell and non-small cell. Categorizing cancers of the lungs is achieved by examing the intruding cells under a microscope and evaluating their size and development. Typically, lung cancer cells accumulate most densely in the air passages of the lungs, inhibiting healthy breathing.
The presence of lung cancer is often supposed by the patients themselves when evaluating risk factors and symptoms. Risk factors of lung cancer include smoking tobacco, exposure to radon or asbestos, residence in a high-pollution environment or a family history of lung cancer. Lung cancer symptoms may include a persistent cough, difficulty breathing, persistent pneumonia, the presence of blood in a cough, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss. Evaluating a combination of risk factors and lung cancer signs can be an excellent advanced warning for this cancer.
A definitive cause of all cancers still eludes physicians and scientists. It is known, however, that exposure to carcinogens such as tobacco, radon or asbestos can accelerate the development of cancer. Family history also appears to determine cancer growth. When symptoms are present, a physician’s exam is necessary. The physician may perform a traditional exam, an x-ray of the chest or even a CT scan to determine if there are growths or irregular amounts of fluid in the lungs. Further evaluation may include evaluating mucus coughed up from the lungs, testing fluid drawn from the lungs through a needle, or performing a biopsy on lung tissue. These methods will determine if cancer cells are present.
A physician who diagnoses a patient with lung cancer will often refer him or her to a specialist who deals with lung cancer. A specialist can recommend the best treatment for the particular cancer observed. Many patients with small cell lung cancer receive radiation or chemotherapy treatments to control their cancer. Radiation is a cancer treatment that involves exposing a small area of the body to radiation. Chemotherapy, however, is a treatment that involves injecting drugs into the bloodstream which attack cancer throughout the body. Patients with non-small cell cancer may require surgery to remove the tumor or tumors. All treatments for lung cancer involve the presence of difficult or uncomfortable side effects. A specialist, however, can thoroughly explain these side effects and put a patient’s mind at relative ease.
The best tip for lowering the probability of getting lung cancer is to decrease risk factors while increasing prevention factors. Risk factors include smoking, working in polluted environments or environments with radon or asbestos, and persistent, untreated lung infections. Eliminate these risk factors by not smoking, wearing protective respiratory gear and seeking immediate medical treatment for lung infections. Prevention factors are often as simple as a healthy diet and exercise. Research is uncovering amazing results with regard to the effect a healthy lifestyle has on cancer prevention. Eliminating the negative and increasing the positive is the best form of cancer prevention.
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