Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer. Due to it being an especially difficult form of cancer to cure, catching the disease in its early stages and utilizing aggressive treatment provide the best chances at survival.
It's Not Just For Smokers
Although smoking is the single most prevalent risk factor for the development of lung cancer, non-smokers should not be cavalier about their risks. Second-hand smoke can be a contributing factor in developing lung cancer in non-smokers in addition to environmental pollution and other factors that are far less controllable. Environmental hazards may greatly affect your risk of lung cancer if you work in certain environments. Some workers may be exposed to dust, fumes, or other ambient particles regularly, and their damaging effects may not surface for many decades.
When non-smokers develop lung cancer, they are more likely to develop a specific form of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), adenocarcinoma. Additionally, with smoking being closely linked to the increased risk of lung cancer, non-smokers and their doctors may be less likely to attribute any symptoms to lung cancer. No matter whether you have a history of smoking or not, you should be cognizant about changes that could signal lung cancer.
One such symptom is a chronic cough. A chronic cough can be attribute to numerous conditions, such as allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), medications, or non-cancer respiratory conditions. Unusual shortness of breath and a productive cough with blood in your mucous are other symptoms that should be taken seriously. A simple, inexpensive chest x-ray can be the first step to identifying abnormalities in and around the lungs.
Early Intervention Is Critical
Unfortunately, lung cancer is often identified in the latter stages, which makes it have a poorer prognosis. The prognosis is further compounded for small cell lung cancer (SCLC), which occurs less commonly but tends to be more aggressive than NSCLC. It is easier to contain cancerous growths when they affect only one lung and have not invaded nearby tissues. When one lung is affected, part or all of the lung may be removed because you can live with a single lung.
Early diagnosis also expands the options for treatment. With more research into lung cancer, there are clinical trials available to try new medications which may help lung cancer patients achieve remission. In many cases, the standard treatment protocol involves chemotherapy and/or radiation. These may be used to shrink cancerous tumors in an effort to remove them or at least contain the cancer for as long as possible. Even when lung cancer is incurable, standard treatment protocols may prolong life and give a lung cancer patient additional opportunities to try other experimental treatments.
A Rise In Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy is one treatment option that is rarely used but is increasing in popularity, especially when other options have failed. The idea behind immunotherapy is using your own immune system fight off cancer cells. Treatment can be used in different ways. Doctors may attempt to increase immune system functioning, which can encourage the immune system to become stronger and irradiate cancer cells on its own. Simply increasing immune system functioning can have the adverse effect of the immune system damaging healthy tissues.
Another approach involves teaching immune cells to recognize the cancer so the immune system can become better at recognizing the foreign cells and specifically target them, which helps to spare normal tissue. This can be accomplished by knowing the specific antigen on a cancer cell. Once the antigen is identified, an antibody can be created that will target the known antigen on the cancer cell. If the immune system can be trained to recognize cancer cells, they may begin their attack well before any imaging tests can identify the cancer has spread.
Diagnosing lung cancer in its early stages gives patients the best shot at going into remission. With newer treatment approaches in the fight against lung cancer, people with late-stage cancer have more options to prolong their life. You can click here for more information on this topic.
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