Lung Cancer |signs, Prevention and treatment

Lung cancer accounts for about 12.7% of all cancers worldwide. The highest rates in the U.S and Europe and lowest in Africa. Lung cancer affects males more than females and is the leading cancer in males.

80-90% of lung cancer is caused by smoking.

Other triggers of lung cancer are;

  • exposure to asbestos,
  • Air pollution especially industrial smoke,
  • family history of lung cancer,
  • previous history of lung cancer

causes of lung cancer

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer

Most of the times, lung cancer do not cause symptoms until it has  spread. The most common symptoms and signs of lung cancer are as follows;

  • Persistent cough
  • hoarseness of voice
  • blood in sputum or cough,
  • unexplainable weight loss,
  • Chest pain,
  • shortness of breath,
  • recurring chest infections like pneumonia,
  • Myalgia- muscle weakness and tiredness,
  • if the cancer has spread, bone pain is experienced,
  • if the top part of the lung is affected, Horner syndrome occurs. In Horner syndrome, the sympathetic nerve supply to the eye is affected and the patient has drooping eyelids, constricted pupils and lack of sweat on one side of the face
  • superior venacava syndrome which is characterized by  swelling of the face, the upper arms and chest. This is caused by the tumor blocking blood returning to the heart from area drained by the superior venacava. The patient may also feel dizziness and headache. This syndrome develops with time but may develop accurately and be life threatening.
  • Paraneoplastic syndromes. These occur when cancer cell produce hormone like substances which act on distance tissues and elicit the effects of the mimicked hormone.

  • examples are; syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone characterized by retention of water in the body and leads to low sodium levels, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, and if not treated can lead to convulsions and coma.
  • cancer cells may secrete cortisol and cause Cushing syndrome. 

signs of lung cancer

signs of lung cancerstages of lung cancer

Stages of lung cancer

Types of lung cancer.

Small cell Lung Carcinoma(SCLC)

This lung cancer is associated with cigarette smoking and is very aggressive. It is further subdivided into oat cell and combined small cell. It can then be classified as limited disease(LD) and Extended Disease(ED). This classification is important as treatment will be based on the class. 

TNM staging of small Cell lung cancer

staging of small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) 

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for about 85 % of all lung cancers.

Management and treatment of lung cancer

Management of limited small cell lung cancer(SCLC). small cell lung cancer is very responsive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Most of the times it is disseminated. Surgery should only be done when chemotherapy has failed. Platinum compounds and etoposide combined with thoracic radiation is used. 

Prognosis and survival in small cell lung cancer; mosts of the times the patients present with a disseminated disease. If not treated, patients can survive for up to four months. when treated early, patients can live up to two years without the disease. About 5-10% of patients treated live up to five years.

Management of advanced small cell lung cancer(SCLC)

The first line drugs in treatment of advanced small cell lung cancer is a combination of carboplastin or cisplatin combined with etoposide. Patients with small cell lung cancer have poor survival rates of ten months to two years in about 10% of the patients.

Management of Non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

Surgery is the best treatment of non small cell lung cancer. Chemotherapy preferably cisplatin is recommended after surgery. If a patient is not medically fit for surgery, then radiotherapy may be offered. For late non small cell lung cancer, cisplatin based chemotherapy is recommended. 


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Dr Mathu

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