Written by Pharm. Ongele Emerald

Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue. Cancer develops when the body’s normal control stops working. Old cells, rather than die, grow out of control forming new abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called tumor. The latest global cancer data is estimated to have risen to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018. The increasing cancer burden is due to several factors, including population growth and aging as well as social and economic development. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in both men and women and is the leading cause of cancer death in 28 countries.  “These figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally and that prevention has a key role to play”. Quote, IARC Director Dr Christopher wild.

Lung Cancer is also known as lung carcinoma and is a malignant lung tumor characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. The two main types are; small-cell lung carcinoma and non-small-cell lung carcinoma. The most common symptoms are coughing, weight loss, shortness of breath and chest pains. The vast majority of lung cancer is due to long-term tobacco smoking, though other cases occur in people who have never smoked. These cases are often caused by a combination of genetic factors, exposure to radon gas, second-hand smoking, or other forms of air pollution.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Respiratory symptoms: wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, coughing up blood.
  • Systemic symptoms: weakness, weight loss, fever, clubbing of the fingernails.
  • Symptoms due to cancer mass pressing on adjacent structures: chest pain, bone pain, difficulty swallowing, superior vena cava obstruction.  

CAUSES

Cancer develops after genetic damage to DNA and epigenetic changes. Those changes affect the cells normal functions leading to cell proliferation. The causes of cancer include but are not limited to these:

  • Smoking: tobacco smoking is the main contributor to lung cancer because cigarette contains carcinogens that lead to the development of cancerous cells. The inhalation of smoke from another’s smoke, known as passive smoking is a cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers.
  • Radon gas: is a colorless, odorless gas generated by the breakdown of radioactive radium, a product of decay of uranium, found in the earth crust.
  • Asbestos: can cause a variety of lung diseases such as lung cancer and cancer of the pleura.
  • Air pollution: air pollutants like chemicals released from burning of fossil fuels increase the risk of lung cancer.
    Genetics: Lung cancer can also be inherited by people whose relatives were diagnosed with cancer.

DIAGNOSIS

Performing a chest radiograph is one of the first investigative steps if a person reports symptoms that may be suggestive of lung cancer. Also, CT imaging is used to provide more information about the extent of the disease.

CLASSIFICATION

This classification is based on therapeutic purposes. Non-small cell lung carcinoma: the subtypes of this class are:

  1. Adenocarcinoma
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma
  3. Large cell carcinoma

Small cell lung carcinoma

PREVENTION

  1. Quit Smoking : eliminating tobacco is a primary goal in the prevention of lung cancer and smoking cessation is an important preventive tool in this process.
  2. Screening: early detection of lung cancer in people without symptoms is important in a person to respond to it in a way that prolongs life and reduces the chance of death.
  3. Eating diets with higher proportion of vegetables and fruits with smoking cessation tend to lower the risk of cancer
  4. Some metals as well as products of combustion from industries increase the risk of cancer. Hence industries should be located far from residential homes.

MANAGEMENT

This depends on the cancer’s specific cell type, how far it has spread and the person’s performance status. Common treatments include:

  1. Surgery
  2. Chemotherapy
  3. Radiation therapy
  4. Targeted therapy
  5. Bronchoscopy
  6. Palliative care.
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