According to National Cancer Registry Programme by Indian Council of Medical Research, around 3.9 million cancer cases were registered in 2016 in India. ICMR claims that almost 40% of these cases are either lung or oral cancer.
According to NICPR, around 2,500 people die of tobacco-related diseases in India every day. Oral and lung cancers are the most common cancers in Indian men. However, these cancers are preventable in most cases.
What is Lung cancer?
Like any other cancer, abnormal growth of cells forms tumours in Lungs. Lungs are responsible for exchange of gases in blood and hence, the tumours can spread through bloodstream to any part of the body. Since lung cancer can easily spread, it is a life-threatening cancer. Lung cancer is also one of the most difficult cancers to treat.
What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
Cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer increases with number of cigerettes smoked and the duration of smoking. Smokers have a 25% higher chance of lung cancer than non-smokers. Pipe or Cigar can also lead to lung cancer. However the chances are slightly lower than cigarette. Tobacco smoke is made up of 4000 chemical compounds most of which are proved to be cancer-causing. Most of the lung cancer cases in India are due to tobacco consumption.
Passive smoking is also another cause of lung cancer. Non-smokers inhale tobacco smoke when they share space with smokers. Passive smokers have an increased risk of lung cancer when compared to non-smokers. The risk also increases depending on the duration of exposure to the tobacco smoke.
Other causes can be asbestos exposure. Asbestos has silicate fibres which may cause lung cancer. The workers exposed to asbestos have a higher risk of cancer. Radon gas exposure may also lead to lung cancer. Radon gas is released when uranium decays. The workers exposed to radon gas also have a high risk of lung cancer. However, the percentage of exposure-related lung cancers is low in India.
Although there is no clear conclusion, hereditary factors may also lead to lung cancer. Family history of lung cancer may be passed on through genes which may interfere with DNA repair or other mutated genes.
Survivors of lung cancers may have a risk of developing lung cancer for the second time. Other lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis may increase the risk of lung cancer.
Exposure to air pollution also increases the chance of lung cancer due to the presence of toxic gases like Carbon mono-oxide and nitrogen compounds. Workers like miners, railroad workers, truck drivers, mechanics etc., are also at the risk of lung cancer due to the exposure to diesel exauhst.
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
In some cases no symptoms are seen till the discovery of cancer. Even in cases where symptoms are seen, they vary from case to case depending on the presence of the tumour.
If the tumour spreads in lung tissues it may interfere with the functions of lung. The symptoms may be cough, breathlessness, chest pain, wheezing, coughing up blood or respiratory problems.
If the cancer invades the nerves it can cause muscle pain, shoulder pain that travels dowm the arm or paralysis of vocal cards leading to hoarseness. If the tumour is near esophagus, it may be difficult to swallow.
If the tumour obstructs the airway of lungs, a portion of lung may collapse leading to pneumonia or other diseases and may lead to death.
Symptoms of lung cancer may also vary depending on parts of body it spread to.
If the tumour spreads to brain, it may lead to blurred vision, seizures, headaches or other neurological symptoms. The tumour spread to bone may lead to excruciating pain in the bone or new bone formation.
Abnormal hormone production and change in blood contents like increased calcium levels and low sodium and potassium levels are also symptoms of lung cancer. Weight loss and fatigue are the common symptoms for any type of cancer.
How to detect lung cancer?
Any image scanning test can reveal the presence of tumours in the body. Chest X-rays, CT scan, PET, MRI are used to detect tumours in lungs. Also various scanners are used depending on the location of the tumour.
What is the treatment for lung cancer?
Like other types of cancers, various treatment options are considered depending on the location and stage of the cancer.
Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy are used to remover tumours from the body. Depending on the stage of cancer and the severity of the symptoms, the treatment either aims for removal of tumours or reduces or eliminates the symptoms or both.
How to prevent lung cancer?
Not smoking and stopping exposure to tobacco reduces the risk of developing lung cancer significantly. Also reducing passive smoking and exposure to pollution may lead to decrease in the risk of lung cancer. Detection of cancer in early stages can help treat it effectively. Also being aware of lung cancer, its causes and symptoms is very important for early detection and prevention.