Lung cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer and the leading cause of causalities globally. What makes lung cancer more dreaded than its counterparts is its deplorable general prognosis. The medical condition is difficult to diagnose in the earlier stages and it reaches criticality by the time the oncologist can identify it. Though lung cancer affects people of all age groups, it is more pronounced in the elderly. As per the WHO study, 70% of lung cancer cases involve patients aged 65 years or above, while the rate of lung cancer patients is just 3% in the populace aged 45 years or below. Smoking is the prime reason for lung cancer followed by prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres, radon gas and air pollution.
Typical of cancer, the lung cancer is also an outcome of an anomaly in the cell reproduction. Generally, the body follows a streamlined system when it comes to cell reproduction, producing cells only when needed. However, any interference with the system can lead to a drastic rise in cell reproduction, which later culminates into tumours. The tumours are either benign or malignant. While the former are dormant and can be eliminated from the body, the latter can rapidly multiply and spread to other parts via the bloodstream. Such a process is medically termed as Metastasis, and the sites of cancerous cell reproduction are called metastases. The prominent lung cancer metastasis sites are brain, bones and liver.
On basis of size and appearance, Oncologists classify lung cancer into two broad categories – Small Cell Lung Cancers (SCLC) and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers (NSCLC). As the types vary in the cause and impact, the lung cancer treatment options also vary. As such, knowing the difference between them becomes imperative.
Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC):
This type of lung cancer is most lethal for its ability to grow and spread aggressively to other body organs without being detected. Smokers are the primary candidates of SCLC, as just 1% of non-smokers are susceptible to it.
Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC):
NSCLC is the most prominent lung cancer, accounting for over 80 percent of cases globally. NSCLC can be further subcategorized as Adenocarcinomas, Bronchioloalveolar carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinomas and large cell carcinomas. Though a rarity, cases of lung cancer with a mix of different types of NSCLC are also found. The categorization is done as per the types of cells constituting the tumour.
The progress of lung cancer can be divided into four stages, each indicating the extent of the spread of the condition.
Stage 1: Tumours are created in the lung but not spread to the other organs.
Stage 2: Tumour is found in the lung and lymph nodes in close proximity.
Stage 3: Cancer spread to the middle of the chest from lungs and lymph nodes.
Stage 4: Cancer infects both lungs and other distant organs.
Symptoms of lung cancer may vary as per the severity of a tumour. Usually, patients do not show any sign of lung cancer in the initial stages. Even when subjected to routine chest X-ray or CT scan, a tumour appears to be a small coin-like object that does not cause any discomfort to the patient. However, as the tumour assumes size, the patient may experience breathing issues, persistent cough, wheezing and mild to severe chest pain. The patient may also cough up blood.
If a tumour has spread to nerves, the patient may experience acute shoulder pain or paralysis of the vocal cords. If a tumour invades the brain, the patient may have to contend with several neurologic symptoms, such as blurred vision, headaches, weakness or seizures. The other non-specific symptoms include excessive weight loss, fatigue, depression and mood swings.
Globally, the lung cancer treatment is showing remarkable improvement in terms of quality and effectiveness. India has not remained immune from the advancements, as many cancer treatment centres have cropped up in every nook and cranny. Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre is one such hospital in Delhi, India offering top-notch treatments and personalised care. It has a perfect synergy of expert Oncologists, cutting-edge technology and post-treatment care to ensure better patient outcomes. Moreover, RGCIRC hospital offers a blend of surgery and several therapies, such as chemo, immune and radiation. Several experimental methods are also readily available, making it a safe bet for lung cancer treatment.