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What Is Lung Cancer?

The lungs are located in our chest cavity, are part of the body’s respiratory system, and are responsible for supplying the body with oxygen. Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lungs multiply uncontrollably and is the second most common cancer in both men and women. The two main types of lung cancer are Small Cell Lung Cancer (abbreviated as “SCLC”) and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (abbreviated as “NSCLC”). Although SCLCs generally grow faster than NSCLC, SCLCs tend to be more responsive to chemotherapy as compared to NSCLC. NSCLC accounts for the majority of lung cancers (approximately 85%) whereas SCLC accounts for the minority (approximately 15%).

What Causes Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer develops as a result of changes to the genetic material within lung cells. These changes result in the pattern of cell growth and division characteristic of lung cancer. Although increased likelihood of developing lung cancer is associated with the following factors, in most cases, physicians and scientists are still trying to determine what causes lung cancer to develop:

  • Smoking or secondhand smoke exposure
  • Personal history of certain cancers
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • Radiation exposure
  • Aging
  • Air pollution
  • Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens
  • Genetic mutations
  • Tuberculosis

How Is Lung Cancer Detected?

Our specialists collect a comprehensive medical history and ask questions to gain insight regarding the symptoms our patients experience.

If lung cancer is suspected, a doctor will likely order imaging to help arrive at a diagnosis. Imaging might include a CT scan, PET scan, PET-CT scan, or chest X-ray. A CT (computed tomography) scan uses X-rays to generate a three-dimensional picture of the body whereas a PET (positron emission tomography) scan uses a small amount of radioactive tracer to locate any cancer cells by how readily they take up the radiotracer. A PET-CT combines the features of CT scan with those of a PET scan.

If upon review of your results your doctor notices a mass suspicious for lung cancer, he or she will likely order an aspiration or biopsy in order to make a diagnosis and plan treatment, if necessary.

Stages of Lung Cancer

‘Staging’ occurs when a physician uses test and scan results to determine which parts of the body are involved by cancer, in this case lung cancer. Staging is important because different stages of lung cancer are better addressed with treatments which may differ in amount, combination, or type. Staging differs between SCLC and NSCLC.

Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer

The following may be indicative of lung cancer but may also be indicative of other illnesses:

  • Persistent cough
  • Pain in chest and/or other areas of the body
  • Change in an existing cough
  • A cough that produces blood or more mucus than usual
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Raspiness and/or hoarseness in one’s voice
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Recurrent or persistent respiratory infections

It is important you tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms, so he or she may determine their cause and plan treatment, if necessary.

How Is Lung Cancer Treated?

Treatment of lung cancer, depending on the stage and type, may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgery. These treatments may be used individually or in combination based on your doctor’s recommendations. It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Some important factors to consider when deciding on a lung cancer treatment plan include:

  • Your age, health, and lifestyle
  • The stage of your cancer
  • Any other serious health conditions you have
  • Your feelings about the need to treat the cancer right away
  • Your doctor’s opinion about if you need to treat the cancer right away
  • The likelihood that treatment will help fight or cure your cancer
  • Possible side effects from each treatment method

You may feel the need to make a quick decision, but it’s very important to ask questions if there is anything about which you’re not entirely sure. It’s very important for you and your doctor to communicate and work together to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible adverse effects in order to ultimately determine which treatment option is best for you.

Our Clinical Trials in Lung Cancer

Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment and, sometimes, may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn how to better treat cancer. If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, contact New York Cancer and Blood Specialists today at (855) 528-7322 to learn more.

We are a localized, community treatment center that provides programs and services, such as support groups and wellness care, to help you get through treatment. We have the experts to assist you.

If you need assistance, have questions or would like to set up an appointment or consultation in regards to your diagnosis or symptoms, please contact us at (855) 528-7322 for more information and to speak with one of our trained specialists.