Lung cancer or bronchial carcinoma is a life-threatening and serious cancer. It is mainly smokers who develop this tumor. The first signs of lung cancer are shortness of breath, severe coughing and chest pain.
What is lung cancer?
According to Dictionaryforall, lung cancer or bronchial carcinoma is a malignant cancer in the lungs. This mainly leads to an uncontrolled and degenerated proliferation of cells in the bronchi or airways. These then destroy the healthy tissue in the course of time, which ultimately often leads to the death of the person concerned.
Medically, lung cancer can be divided into two forms: 1. Small-cell bronchial carcinoma and non-small-cell bronchial carcinoma. Non-small cell lung cancer usually develops locally in the lungs and rarely forms metastases.
Therefore, the chance of recovery is significantly higher here than with small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer can in turn be divided into squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell bronchial carcinoma.
Although small cell lung cancer is rarer, its impact on humans is far more dangerous. They are very aggressive and grow very quickly. They also form metastases at an early stage. Lung cancer is very common in Germany. Almost every third tumor disease is a bronchial carcinoma. However, those affected are usually older than 60 years. On average, men are twice as likely to get lung cancer than women.
The main causes of lung cancer are smoking and the inhalation of carcinogenic substances, vapors and gases at work and in everyday life. Smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer at around 90%. When you smoke, hundreds of carcinogenic substances are inhaled, so that a regular smoker has a 40 times higher chance of developing lung cancer. But passive smoking also represents an enormous risk and should not be underestimated.
The second most common are carcinogenic substances in the environment, in professional life and in everyday life. Even if the proportion of this group appears to be quite small at around 5 percent, these cases occur again and again. The following substances in particular can lead to lung cancer if inhaled:
- Asbestos, asbestos dust
- Radioactive materials
- Nickel in costume jewellery
- dirt in cement (chrome 6 compounds)
- benzene in gasoline
Other causes are: Lung scars as a result of pneumonia or injury, Genetic or hereditary predisposition from family members suffering from lung cancer.
Typical Symptoms & Signs
Infogram of the different lung diseases and their characteristics, anatomy and location. Click to enlarge.
The treacherous thing about lung cancer is that the symptoms only become apparent when the disease is very advanced. The signs can also indicate other diseases of the respiratory tract. Typical signs that can indicate lung cancer are cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, (bloody) sputum, difficulty swallowing, tiredness, general malaise and weight loss.
If these symptoms occur together, you should definitely consult a doctor. Cough is usually a permanent condition lasting more than three weeks, which is getting worse or is chronic. However, the symptoms mentioned are not only typical of lung cancer. They can also be signs of another respiratory disease.
These include, for example, bronchitis, pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs), bronchial asthma and pulmonary fibrosis. Heavy smokers or people who are otherwise at risk for lung cancer should see a doctor if they have these symptoms. Furthermore, regular health checks by the family doctor are a must for everyone in order to be able to identify and treat a possible tumor in good time.
In order to ease the symptoms in everyday life, sufferers should take it easy and avoid additional strain on the respiratory tract due to physical exertion or the icy cold.
course of the disease
The course of lung cancer can be broken down into three stages. First there is inhalation or contact with carcinogenic substances such as nicotine, asbestos or tar. This is followed by damage to the lung cells and airways. Here, the genetic material of the cells in particular is changed or damaged. After a period of dormancy, usually lasting several years (latency period up to 30 years), the genetically modified cells in the lungs or airways begin to grow and multiply rapidly. This then leads to the typical tumors or growths of lung cancer.
So far, the prognosis of dying from lung cancer is extremely high. Nevertheless, a cure can take place if the lung cancer is detected in time. The type of tumour, age and gender also play a key role. Women generally have a greater chance of recovery. Nevertheless, the average chance of survival is relatively low at around 30 percent. Untreated lung cancer usually leads to death within 6 months.
In most cases, lung cancer leads to the death of the patient or to a significantly reduced life expectancy. The quality of life is also significantly restricted by this disease, so that those affected suffer from a strong cough and continue to suffer from shortness of breath. Furthermore, shortness of breath often leads to reduced resilience and fatigue in the patient. Those affected feel exhausted and also suffer from chest pain.
Lung cancer also leads to weight loss and loss of appetite. Patients also often suffer from fever and coughing up mucus. Everyday life is also restricted, since physically demanding activities can usually no longer be carried out. Self-healing does not occur and in most cases the lung cancer leads to the death of the patient after about a year if the patient is not treated.
The earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the better the patient’s chances of survival. During the treatment, part of the lung is removed. Various side effects can occur during chemotherapy. In the worst case, the metastases spread to other areas of the body and can also lead to cancer there. This significantly reduces the life expectancy of those affected.
When should you go to the doctor?
Lung cancer always requires a doctor’s visit. This applies to the suspicion of this disease as well as to complications or symptoms after the diagnosis has already been made.
Blood in the sputum is a classic sign of lung cancer, as is a persistent dry cough, so such symptoms should be clarified by a doctor. Blood when coughing can also indicate other diseases such as tuberculosis in addition to lung cancer, but in many cases also a burst capillary, which in turn would be harmless.
If lung cancer has already been diagnosed, going to the doctor is not necessarily limited to treatment appointments. The doctor should also be consulted in the event of sudden or severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain when breathing. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can have side effects that also require a doctor’s visit. Severe nausea, tiredness or bone pain justify going to the doctor. Mental impairments are also a reason to see a family doctor or a psycho-oncologist who knows ways to alleviate the mental stress associated with the diagnosis of lung cancer.
After treated lung cancer, the prescribed control intervals must be observed. But a lung cancer patient can also visit the doctor outside of the appointments if he feels new symptoms. A diagnosis between the intervals can often help to calm things down.
Treatment & Therapy
Therapy for lung cancer is not only advisable but vital, otherwise the chances of survival are zero. Therefore, it is important to detect lung cancer as early as possible and start treatment.
Depending on the stage of the disease, the cancerous tissue is removed by surgery and/or chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If surgery is successful in removing non-small cell lung cancer, the chances of recovery are good.
However, if metastases (secondary tumors) have already spread, a cure can hardly be assumed. The aim of radiation therapy is to destroy metastases or to prevent new ones from forming.
After the actual cancer treatment, those affected need permanent care. This includes regular medical examinations and the practice of other therapies. Most importantly, it requires a lifestyle change. Smokers should definitely refrain from further nicotine consumption and refrain from doing so altogether. Regular exercise and a balanced diet also promote recovery.
In order to regain the quality of life they are used to, those affected are sometimes dependent on the support of the responsible doctors as well as acquaintances and friends. This usually helps them to process the disease as well. The general practitioner can call in cancer counseling centres, psycho-oncologists and social law contacts. Visiting a self-help group is also an important part of aftercare.
The aftercare plan is drawn up together with the doctor and is based on the symptoms, the general course of the disease and the prognosis. In the first phase, when patients are still processing the consequences of the disease and treatment, aftercare is particularly important. The key is to support patients until remission is achieved. If the treatment was successful, the risk of recurrence decreases annually. In the case of a serious stage of the disease, permanent follow-up checks and aftercare go hand in hand.
Outlook & Forecast
The outlook for lung cancer is poor. In Germany, the disease is one of the most common tumor occurrences. If you look at mortality rates, the picture is bleak. A good half of those affected are no longer alive after five years. In practice, it proves to be problematic that a diagnosis is regularly only made at an advanced stage. This is based on the fact that complaints only appear then and are non-specific.
An early detection test does not yet exist. Statistically, lung cancer has long been considered a male disease. This was mainly due to their cigarette consumption. In the meantime, however, women are also increasingly consuming nicotine, which is why the numbers of diseases are increasingly converging.
However, there are also criteria that lead us to expect a positive course. This results in better chances of recovery for women. A young age also has a positive effect. Furthermore, a favorable location and type of tumor increase life expectancy. A non-small cell cancer is far more treatable. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, patients have to reckon with a greatly reduced life expectancy. If a cure is successful, there is a high risk of recurrence. This is many times higher for smokers.
You can do that yourself
The possibilities of self-help are severely limited with this cancer. Those affected can alleviate the symptoms to a limited extent, but cannot completely combat them.
Because lung cancer weakens the immune system and the body in general, people should not exercise or engage in strenuous activities. The patient must take care of his body. If some everyday things are no longer easily possible, the help of friends, acquaintances or nursing staff is necessary. If you have lung cancer, you should stop smoking and drinking alcoholcompletely renounce. The typical loss of appetite associated with cancer should also be counteracted. Specially prepared food for cancer patients is available in pharmacies. In some cases, it is also necessary to take dietary supplements to prevent deficiency symptoms.
The disease can also lead to mental disorders. Contact with other affected people is advisable in order to talk about the further course of the disease. Children should always be informed about the disease and its consequences. In the case of psychological problems, talking to your closest friends or family is also very helpful and can prevent depression. In general, warm and heartfelt care of the person concerned by familiar people has a very positive effect.