November has been declared Lung Cancer Awareness Month as part of a major campaign to increase Americans’ awareness of this leading cause of cancer deaths and second most common cancer among both men and women in this country.
Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. While not all lung cancer is caused by smoking, about 85-90 percent is attributed to smoking. Radon — a naturally occurring gas that comes from the ground and can get trapped in buildings — is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking in America, and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
There are two main types of lung cancer:
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
There are two different types of small cell lung cancer: small cell carcinoma and mixed small cell/large cell cancer or combined small cell lung cancer. The types of small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look when viewed under a microscope. Small cell lung cancer is almost always associated with cigarette smoking. Small cell lung cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
Non-small cell lung cancer is more common. It makes up about 80 percent of lung cancer cases. This type of cancer usually grows and spreads to other parts of the body more slowly than small cell lung cancer does. There are three different types of non-small cell lung cancer:
- Adenocarcinoma: A form of non-small cell lung cancer often found in an outer area of the lung. It develops in the cells of epithelial tissues, which line the cavities and surfaces of the body and form glands.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: A form of non-small cell lung cancer usually found in the center of the lung next to an air tube (bronchus).
- Large cell carcinoma: A form of non-small cell lung cancer that can occur in any part of the lung and tends to grow and spread faster than adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.
It’s important to know that anyone can get lung cancer. Lung cancer happens when cells in the lung mutate or change. Various factors can cause this mutation (a permanent change in the DNA sequence of a gene) to happen. Most often, this change in lung cells happens when people breathe in dangerous, toxic substances. Even if you were exposed to these substances many years ago, you are still at risk for lung cancer.
You can prevent lung cancer by:
- Not smoking. If you smoke, quitting can help drastically lower your chances of getting lung cancer. If you quit smoking before the cancer has developed, your lungs will work to repair themselves.
- Lower your exposure to radon. You can lower your exposure by having your home tested and treated, if needed.
- If you work near cancer-causing chemicals, make sure to protect yourself and lower your exposure to them as much as possible.
- Staying healthy by eating fruits and vegetables can also be helpful in preventing lung cancer.
Fortunately, researchers around the world are working diligently to find a cure for cancer and have developed a number of highly effective treatments to fight the deadly disease and significantly increase the survival rate of individuals who get it. More and more cancer patients are living long, happy, healthy lives thanks to advanced diagnostics and treatments. Contact us here at Community Health Connections to learn more.