Signs And Symptoms Of Lung Cancer: Causes & Treatment Options

Characteristically, lung cancer does not produce signs and symptoms in the earliest stages. Signs become evident only when the disease has advanced considerably.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A new cough that will not ameliorate.
  • A change in a chronic cough.
  • Gasping and breathlessness.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Pain in the chest
  • Coughing blood
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Bone pains

Leading Causes Of Lung Cancer

  • Smoking causes most lung cancers —in smokers as well as in those who are exposed to second hand smoke.
    On the other hand it is also known to occur in people who have never smoked and in those who have never been exposed to second hand smoke. In these cases, there isn’t a clear cause of development of malignancy. When you inhale cigarette smoke, which consists of carcinogens, it alters the lung tissue almost immediately. At first, the body can repair this damage. But with repeated exposure, the cells act abnormally and cancer develops.
  • Exposure to radon gas is an important risk factor.
  • Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens increase your risk of developing lung cancer, more so if you’re a smoker.
  • Family history of lung cancer increases your predilection.

Treatment Options For Lung Cancer

You need to discuss with your doctor and choose a treatment plan which depends upon the type and stage of the cancer and your preference. Treatment options are – surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or targeted drug therapy.

  • Surgery

Surgical intervention comprises of:

  1. Wedge resection – to remove a small portion of the lung containing the tumor with a margin of the healthy tissue.
  2. Segmental resection – to eliminate a larger portion of lung, but not a whole lobe.
  3. Lobectomy – to excise an entire lobe.
  4. Pneumonectomy – to remove an entire lung.
  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy makes use of drugs to annihilate the malignant cells. One or more chemotherapy drugs will be administered orally or intravenously. A combination of drugs is usually given in a series of treatments over an interval of weeks of months, with breaks in between so that you can recover.

Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain. It may also be used before surgery to shrink the tomor mass and make them easier to excise. Chemotherapy also helps allay pain and other symptoms of advanced malignancy.

  • Radiation therapy

Radiotherapy makes use of high powered energy beams from sources such as X-rays to destroy the malignant cells. Radiation therapy may be external, i.e. directed at the tumor mass from the outside the body or brachytherapy, i.e. it can be inserted in to needles, catheters or seeds and placed inside the body near the tumor mass.

Radiation therapy is advised after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that may remain. It may also be used as the first line of treatment for malignancies which cannot be removed during surgery. In advanced cases of cancer, radiation therapy allays pain and other symptoms.

  • Targeted drug therapy

Targeted therapy is a relatively new cancer treatment which works by targeting specific anomalies in the cancer cells. Targeted therapy drugs are used in conjunct with chemotherapy drugs.

Targeted therapies only work in those whose cancer cells have certain genetic mutations. The malignant cells are tested in a laboratory to see if these drugs might help you.