Survivor’s Account – George used to be a compulsive smoker, it all changed and how.
It was 7 years back when George (name changed) found his usual active self, low on energy and extremely weak. Initially, he ignored the symptoms but when he started losing weight, he visited his doctor. The doctor told him he might have emphysema. But on Christmas Day, he received a call from his doctor who called him to his clinic and told him that he had stage III advanced lung cancer. He was 46 and had a happy family including his wife and a 3-yr old daughter. He immediately went into ‘why me’ syndrome as the doctor said he didn’t have much time. But, later he contacted Hospital where one his nieces was treated successfully. He received treatment for 9 months under a trained team.
George thought that he would need surgery but after radiation and chemotherapy an amazing change was seen in his body. He received his last treatment on his daughter’s birthday and was asked to be back for check-up every year. Today, he has quit smoking, is helping cancer victims and is leading a happy, healthy life.
Here is all you need to know about lung cancer…
Unrestrained growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs is lung cancer. Neither these cells have any functioning of a normal lung cell nor do they develop into a healthy lung tissue. As they grow, these call form a tumor, obstructing the normal functioning of lungs that provide oxygen to the body through blood.
Primary and Secondary Lung Cancer
When cancer starts in the lungs, it is primary lung cancer. In some people, cancer reaches the other body parts or metastasizes to their lungs, it is secondary lung cancer. This site becomes the secondary site for cancer, other than the original site.
a) Symptoms in the chest:
- Persistent or intense coughing
- Chance in volume or color of sputum
- Pain in the shoulder, chest or back
- Change in voice texture
- Coughing up blood
- Harsh sounds with each breath emitted
- Repeated lung problems
b) Symptoms elsewhere in the body:
When lung cancer spreads at other placed like bones, liver, brain etc, there are additional symptoms:
- Wasting of muscles or cachexia
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in joints, bones and headache
- Headaches, bone or joint pain
- Blood clots or bleeding
- Swelling in neck and face
- Bone fractures not connected to accidents
- Neurological symptoms like memory loss
c) Symptoms in non smokers
Assuming that lung cancer can happen with only a person who smokes is absolutely wrong as even a non-smoking person can also have lung cancer. The cancer and the symptoms may vary in both the cases:
- Shortness of breathe
- Pain in the chest
- Pain in back and shoulder
- Constant cough
Causes and Risk Factors
- Smoking (active and passive)
- Less intake of fruits and vegetables
- Occupational exposures at workplace such as asbestos
- Previous lung cancer or lung disease such as TB
- Family History
- Air pollution
- Exposure to Radon, a naturally-occurring radioactive gas
- Weakened immune system
Types of lung cancer
Mainly, lung cancer is of 2 types:
- Non-small-cell lung cancer
It has been seen that put of 10 lung cases, 8 are NSCLC. It is of three types:
About eight in 10 primary lung cancers are diagnosed as NSCLC. It occurs in four stages. There are three types of:
- Squamous cell carcinoma- Occurs mainly due to smoking, affecting one’s main airways generally near the center of the lungs.
- Adenocarcinoma – Occurs in both smokers and non-smokers and affects the outer part of the lungs.
- Large cell carcinoma can affect any part of your lungs and occurs in about one in 10 of all lung cancers.
When seen under the microscope, it is examined that this lung cancer is made from small cells. And generally develops quickly, spreading in other body parts, as well, even before getting diagnosed. It mainly occurs because of cancer and is in two stages.
If lung cancer is suspected in a screening procedure, biopsy is done by looking a piece of tissue under the microscope for the cancer cells. Biopsy can be done in various ways. When one is diagnosed with lung cancer and the type is also detected, the doctor suggests the best treatment.
Treatment & Health Care
The treatment of lung cancer depends on a number or factors such as its type, how far it has spread in the body and general health of the patient. SCLC generally gets treated through chemotherapy and radiotherapy as it gets spread by the time it is diagnosed. On the other hands, the treatment of NSCLC involves surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of all these along with medication.
a) Non-surgical treatments
- Targeted therapies
- Radiofrequency ablation and laser therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
If NSCLC hasn’t spread, surgery for lung cancer can be done to remove a lobe, a small section or the whole lung, as per the type, size and the placement of cancer. Surgery also depends on the fact what the current condition of the lung is.
[Read more about effective lung cancer treatment in India]
Advanced stage of lung cancer
If lung cancer is not detected in the initial stages until it has already spread in the body, the answer in such a case is not cure but proper treatment, called palliative care that offers quality life. The doctor might use a blend of treatments for controlling the symptoms, lessening the pain and shrinking the tumor.
Support and help
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, it is a painful time for not only the patient but also for the family. Along with the best of treatment, it is very important to offer some emotional support, which lessens the suffering. Even the doctors and their assisting staff are expert in offering help that the patient and his family need.
As they say, ‘Prevention is better than cure’, it is advisable that one should follow such steps and change lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. It is better to quit smoking, eat balanced diet full of vegetable and fruits and not indulge in excessive drinking.