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  Lung cancer

Lung cancer is a cancer that is characterized by the presence of malignant tumors. Lung cancer is one of the most lethal of cancers worldwide, and is the cause of up to 3 million deaths annually. Only one in ten patients diagnosed with this disease will survive the next five years.

Lung cancer Lung
Lung cancer

Treatment and prognosis depend upon the type of cancer and the stage, or how far it’s spread.

Symptoms that suggest lung cancer include dyspnea (shortness of breath); hemoptysis (coughing up blood); chronic cough; wheezing; chest pain; cachexia (weight loss), fatigue and loss of appetite; dysphonia (hoarse voice); and clubbing of the fingernails (uncommon). If the cancer grows a certain way, it may obstruct the airway, causing breathing difficulties.

Depending on the type of tumor, it may not be the tumor itself that draws attention to the problem. In lung cancer, Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (muscle weakness due to autoantibodies), hypercalcemia, and SIADH may be what draw attention to the disease. Tumors in the top of the lung may invade the local part of the sympathetic nervous system, leading to changed sweating patterns and eye muscle problems, as well as muscle weakness in the hands.

In many patients, the cancer has already spread by the time they have symptoms and seek medical attention. Common sites of metastasis include the bone, and the brain.

Performing a chest X-ray is the first step. If there are no X-ray findings but the suspicion is high (for example a very heavy smoker with bloodstained sputum), bronchoscopy, and/or a CT scan may provide the diagnosis.

If investigations have confirmed lung cancer, scan results and often positron emission tomography (PET) are used to determine whether the disease is localized or whether it has spread too far to be cured surgically.

There are two main types of lung cancer categorized by the size and appearance of the malignant cells: small-cell and non-small cell lung cancer.

There are four major causes of lung cancer (and other cancers in general, as well): carcinogens such as those in cigarette smoke; radiation exposure; genetic susceptibility; and viral infection.

Treatment for lung cancer depends on the cancer's specific type, how far it has spread, and the patient's status. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Eliminating tobacco smoking is a primary goal in the fight to prevent lung cancer, and quitting smoking is probably the most important tool to help prevent this and other cancers.

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