Cancer can affect just about any part of the body, from the colon to the pancreas. Some cancers grow quickly, while others grow slowly, but of all the different cancers out there, one of the deadliest is lung cancer.
Cancer starts when cells begin to grow uncontrollably and form tumors. In the case of lung cancer, the tumors start in the lungs. Sometimes cancer starts somewhere else in the body and then spreads to the lungs. In that case, it’s called metastatic cancer to the lung. There are two types of lung cancer. The most common, and slower-growing form is non-small cell lung cancer. The other, faster-growing form is called small cell lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer for both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. It is more common in older adults and rarely found in people under age 45.
The most common way to get lung cancer is to smoke cigarettes. Close to 90% of lung cancer is related to smoking. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk for lung cancer. Even being around someone who smokes and breathing in the secondhand smoke from their cigarettes increases your risk of getting lung cancer.
Even though smoking makes you much more likely to get lung cancer, you don’t have to smoke or be exposed to smoke to get the disease. Some people who have lung cancer never lit up a cigarette in their life.
The following may also increase your risk for lung cancer:
- Exposure to asbestos
- Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals such as uranium, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline, and diesel exhaust
- Exposure to radon gas
- Family history of lung cancer
- High levels of air pollution
- High levels of arsenic in drinking water
- Radiation to the lungs
Symptoms of non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer are basically the same.
Early lung cancer may not cause any symptoms.
Symptoms depend on the type of cancer you have, but may include:
- Chest pain
- Cough that does not go away
- Coughing up blood
- Losing weight without trying
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
Other symptoms that may also occur with lung cancer, often in the late stages:
- Bone pain or tenderness
- Eyelid drooping
- Facial paralysis
- Hoarseness or changing voice
- Joint pain
- Nail problems
- Shoulder pain
- Swallowing difficulty
- Swelling of the face or arms
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, The Medical Group of South Florida encourages you to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. From there, a tissue diagnosis ordered by the primary care provider will determine if your symptoms are cancer-related. If you do not have a primary care physician, please visit our website to establish with one today.
Lung cancer is often found when an x-ray or CT scan is done for another reason.
If lung cancer is suspected, the provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. You will be asked if you smoke. If so, you’ll be asked how much you smoke and for how long you have smoked. You will also be asked about other things that may have put you at risk for lung cancer, such as exposure to certain chemicals.
When listening to the chest with a stethoscope, the provider may hear fluid around the lungs. This may suggest cancer.
Tests that may be done to diagnose lung cancer or see if it has spread include:
- Bone scan
- Chest x-ray
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- CT scan of the chest
- MRI of the chest
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
- Sputum test to look for cancer cells
- Thoracentesis (sampling of fluid buildup around the lung)
In most cases, a piece of tissue is removed from your lungs for examination under a microscope. This is called a biopsy. There are several ways to do this:
- Bronchoscopy combined with biopsy
- CT-scan-directed needle biopsy
- Endoscopic esophageal ultrasound (EUS) with biopsy
- Mediastinoscopy with biopsy
- Open lung biopsy
- Pleural biopsy
If the biopsy shows cancer, more imaging tests are done to find out the stage of the cancer. Stage means how big the tumor is and how far it has spread. Staging helps guide treatment and follow-up and gives you an idea of what to expect.
Treatment for lung cancer depends on the type of cancer, how advanced it is, and how healthy you are:
- Surgery to remove the tumor may be done when it has not spread beyond nearby lymph nodes.
- Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and stop new cells from growing.
- Radiation therapy uses powerful x-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells.
The above treatments may be done alone or in combination. Your provider can tell you more about the specific treatment you will receive, depending on the specific type of lung cancer and what stage it is.
Radiation Oncology at MGSFL
You imagine the day you’re free of cancer. We’re here to help make it a reality. That’s why the Medical Group of South Florida acquired The Halcyon™ radiotherapy system. This is one of the most advanced cancer-fighting machines -built to be quiet, fast, and very comfortable during treatment. It’s the latest, top-of-the-line technology made to deliver high quality treatments and help you get closer to the day you are cancer-free.
Because of its versatility, Halcyon can be used to treat a wide range of cases, including lung, prostate, breast, head and neck, and many other forms of cancer. It delivers accurate radiotherapy, precisely targeting tumors with finely-shaped beams that minimize exposure of the surrounding healthy tissues and organs.
Our treatments include:
■ Image-Guided Radiation Therapy
■ Targeted Cancer Therapy
■ Intra-Operative Radiotherapy
■ Stereotactic Radiosurgery
If you have concerns about a cancer diagnosis, please call (561) 622-6111 and make an appointment to come see Dr. Michael Hall, Radiation Oncologist at The Medical Group of South Florida. Dr. Michael Hall can help walk you through the various treatment options available to your unique situation.
Book a consultation with Dr. Hall today!