What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer manifests as malignant tumors growing in the air passages of the lungs. There are two main types: small cell lung cancer (13 percent of lung cancer cases) and non-small cell lung cancer (87 percent of lung cancer cases). The type is determined by how the cells look under the microscope.
Symptoms of lung cancer include:
- A chronic cough that gets worse or doesn't get better
- Shortness of breath or other breathing troubles
- Constant chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Frequent lung infections, like pneumonia
- A hoarse voice
- Extreme fatigue that doesn't go away
- Unexplained weight loss
If your doctor suspects lung cancer, he or she will order a chest X-ray or a CT scan to look at the lung and check for a tumor or abnormal fluid. Your doctor may also order tests to collect samples and check for cancerous cells. These tests can take the form of surgery, needle aspirations or a bronchoscopy.
If you have lung cancer, your doctor may refer you to a thoracic (chest) surgeon, an oncologist (a doctor specializing in cancer treatment) or a thoracic surgical oncologist. Lung cancer treatment includes chemotherapy (which uses anti-cancer drugs to wipe out cancerous cells), radiation therapy (which uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells in a localized area) or surgery. There is also targeted therapy, which uses drugs to block the growth of new cancer cells all over the body.
Side effects of radiation and chemotherapy vary, but can include nausea, vomiting, loss of hair, weight loss and diarrhea. Targeted therapy drugs can cause these effects plus rashes, bleeding, high blood pressure, and could cause you to cough up blood. Talk to your doctor about these side effects and how you can control them.
If you have lung cancer, you're not alone. There are many resources and support groups to help you and your family get through this hard time. The National Cancer Center offers a lot of information and help on this disease.
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