You are here

Lung Cancer

System Use only

If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, you likely have a lot of questions. Dr. Perez and his team are available to help you understand your treatment options and manage your care. Make an appointment today with the SNCC team. There are even resources to help you pay for cancer treatment not covered by insurance including, the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition that connect you to resources from the American Cancer Society, Cancer Care, Sarcoma Alliance, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and others. 

WHAT IS LUNG CANCER?

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed to both men and women and accounts for about 13 percent of all new type of cancers. It is responsible for 27 percent of all cancer deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, there are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

It is believed that lung cancer begins developing when changes occur in the DNA of the lung cells, causing the cells to rapidly grow. While they may look abnormal, at this point they do not cause cancer symptoms such as tumor growth. If the abnormal cells experience further gene changes, however, they can progress to cancer. Once cancer is developed inside the lungs, the formation of new blood cells occurs, which then feeds the cancer cells, allowing them to form tumors or masses. The cancer is able to spread throughout the body when cells from the cancerous tumors break off. This is a key factor in making lung cancer such a deadly disease, because the cancer often spreads even before detection by x-ray is possible.

lung cancer treatment

TYPES OF LUNG CANCER

There are two main types of lung cancer—small cell and non-small cell lung cancer, which are named after how their cells appear under a microscope. It is possible to have a combination of both types of cancer known as a combined small cell/non-small cell cancer, however, this does not occur very often.

There are two major types of lung cancer: Small cell lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer.

CHARACTERISTICS OF NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER
  • Non-small cell lung cancers are the most common type of lung cancers comprising 5%-90% of lung cancers.
  • The three main types of non-small cell lung cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER
  • Small cell lung cancers make up only 10-15% of lung cancers.
  • It is highly uncommon for a non-smoker to be diagnosed with small cell lung cancer.​

Other types of tumors can occur in the lungs, including lung carcinoid tumors, adenoid cystic carcinomas, lymphomas and sarcomas.

2017 Colorecatal Cancer Projections

FACTS ABOUT LUNG CANCER

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, accounting for 27% of all cancer deaths.
  • Lung cancer mainly occurs in people aged 65 and the average age of diagnosis is 70.
  • The odds of surviving lung cancer, like many other types of cancer, vary depending on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed.

CAUSES OF LUNG CANCER

SMOKING

Smoking increases the risk of developing non-small cell lung cancer. Smoking includes cigarettes, pipes or cigars. The longer a person smokes directly correlates with their odds of developing lung cancer, but if a smoker stops, the risk lowers with every passing year. Being exposed to secondhand smoke also increases a person's risk. Combining the risk factor of smoking with other risk factors, such as having a family history of lung cancer, greatly increases the chances of developing lung cancer.

If a cancer spreads to the lungs from other organs, such as breast, kidney, or skin, it is still not considered lung cancer.

lung cancer causes
OTHER CAUSES OF LUNG CANCER

While smoking is a common cause of lung cancer, it is not the only way to develop it. Other risk factors include treatment of radiation therapy, exposure to asbestos, air pollution, contracting HIV, and exposure to radon. Radon, a deadly, naturally occurring radioactive gas, is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Exposure to radon by smokers increases the odds they will develop lung cancer. While radon can be found in households worldwide, radon-caused lung cancer is preventable through testing and mitigation.

WAYS TO HELP PREVENT LUNG CANCER

The following help reduce the risk of contracting lung cancer:

  • Not smoking
  • Quitting smoking (lung tissue will actually repair when smoking ceases)
  • Limiting exposure to asbestos and air pollution
  • Limiting exposure to radon
  • Healthy diet rich with fruits and vegetables

SCREENING FOR LUNG CANCER

Lung cancer screening has been extensively studied and reviewed. It has not proven universally useful. Therefore the American Cancer Society has issued guidelines that are aimed at doctors and other health care providers for when ot screen. Patients should be asked about their smoking history. Patients who meet ALL of the following criteria may be candidates for lung cancer screening:

  • 55 to 74 years old
  • In fairly good health 
  • Have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history (number of cigarette packs smoked each day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked)
  • Are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years

SYMPTOMS OF LUNG CANCER

Symptoms of lung cancer do not typically appear until the disease is already in an advanced, non-curable stage. Sometimes lung cancers are found accidentally as a result of other medical conditions that may require a chest x-ray or CT scan.  

  • Cough that doesn't go away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or discomfort in chest
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite/weight loss
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swelling of the face/neck 

TREATMENT OPTIONS

Treatments for lung cancer may include:

  • Surgical options:
    Pneumonectomy: where an entire lung is removed.
    Lobectomy: where an entire section or lobe of a lung is removed.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA):
    Treatment where a probe is placed through the skin and into the tumor sending an electric current that heats the tumor to destroy it.This may also be an option for some  patients who cannot tolerate surgery or for small lung tumors that are near the outer edge of the lungs.

  • Radiation therapy:
    Uses high-energy rays (such as x-rays) or particles to kill cancer cells. There are 2 main types– external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy).

  • Targeted therapies:
    Targeted drugs that work differently from standard chemotherapy and that specifically target changes in Lung Cancer. They are most often used for advanced lung cancers, either along with chemo or by themselves.

  • Immunotherapy:
    The use of medicines used to stimulate a patient's immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively.

  • Chemotherapy:
    May be used in different situations:
    Before or after surgery  (sometimes along with radiation therapy) to try to shrink a tumor or to kill cancer cells that may have been left behind.
    As the main treatment (sometimes along with radiation therapy) for more advanced cancers or for some patients where surgery isn't an option.

    Lung cancer chemotherapy, is most commonly used for small and non-small lung cancers. Lung carcinoid tumors do not respond well to chemotherapy because it does not always shrink the carcinoid tumors. Chemotherapy when used for carcinoid tumors is mainly used when they have spread to other organs, causing severe symptoms, and in some cases may be given after surgery.

    Click here for more information on lung cancer chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may still be an option for patients, but it is always important to ask your doctor about the risks and benefits about chemotherapy in relation to your cancer case. 

Sources

  1. Lung Cancer, Updated March 2017, http://www.cancer.org/
  2. Lung Cancer, National Cancer Institute, Retrieved Oct 30, 2014. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung
  3. Radon No. 1 Lung Cancer Cause in Nonsmokers, Reno Gazette Journal, Published Oct 24, 2014, website