Lung Cancer: A Serial Killer
Length: 804 words (2.3 double-spaced pages)
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early stages of lung cancer. Doctors use special machines to detect the severity of each stage. Treatments and cures differ in each individual case. Lung cancer is a huge problem because it is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women (Microsoft, “Lung Cancer';).“Lung cancer is an uncontrolled, extremely deadly division of cells in the lung'; (World Book, “Lung Cancer';). The two major types of lung cancer include small and non-small cell. Many different risk factors contribute to lung cancer. There are numerous symptoms that are difficult to detect in the
Both small cell and non-small cell lung cancer affect different types of cells in the lung and spread in different ways. Small cell lung cancer is limited to a section of the chest known as the hemithorax and regional lymph nodes (World Book, “Lung Cancer';). Small cell lung cancer usually exists early and spreads out abruptly (Virtual Hospital, 3/23/99). Non-small cell lung cancer is first confined to the lung, then spreads throughout the chest (MSKCC, “Lung Cancer';). Small cell lung cancer spreads quickly (World Book, “Lung Cancer';).
In the United States 85 to 90 percent of all lung cancer cases are related to smoking. Cigarette smoking is the main cause of lung cancer (Scientific American, “Lung Cancer';). Second-hand smoke, inhaled by non-smokers, increases a person’s chance of acquiring lung cancer (Beau Halton). Men who smoke increase their chance of dying from lung cancer about 23 times and women increase their chances 13 times (“Lung Cancer Awareness Campaign,'; 3/23/99). However, lung cancer may also be caused by long term exposure to radon, a naturally present radioactive gas (SIRS, “What is Cancer?';). The residue of burned petroleum and coal can contribute to lung cancer (Scientific American, “Lung Cancer';). The development of lung cancer seems to be also affected by genes. The gene histidine triad blocks the formation of tumors, so a defective gene could make one more likely to form a tumor (Microsoft, “Lung Cancer';).
In the early stages of lung cancer, symptoms are hard to recognize. Symptoms usually include a persistent cough, coughing up blood, weight loss, chest or shoulder pain, swelling in the face or neck, shortness of breath, and a hoarse voice (Microsoft, “Lung Cancer';). Repeated cases of pneumonia, a virus in which the lungs become inflamed, or bronchitis, inflammation of the mucous membrane of the bronchia tubes, may be warning signs for lung cancer (Scientific American, “Lung Cancer';).
Bone pain, headaches, and dizziness are observations that the lung cancer has spread (Microsoft, “Lung Cancer';).
New technology is used on patients when a physician suspects lung cancer. Chest x-rays are used to examine the lungs for tumors (World Book, “Lung Cancer';). A CAT scan, series of x-ray images put together by a computer, is also performed (Scientific American, “Lung Cancer';). During a biopsy, a physician removes a small amount of tissue and examines it. A microscope is used to analyze cells in order to determine whether a tumor is malignant, tending to grow and spread throughout the body (MSKCC, “Lung Cancer';).
Treatment depends on the type of lung cancer, the size of the tumor, the location of the tumor, the stage of illness, the age of the patient, and the overall health of the patient (Microsoft, “Lung Cancer). Surgery is performed to remove the tumor if there is no chance that the cancer has spread (Scientific American, “Lung Cancer';). If the disease has spread, then treatment will often include radiation therapy and chemotherapy (MSKCC, “Lung Cancer';). Radiation therapy is based on the use of ionizing radiation to destroy cancerous cells (Microsoft, “Radiology';). Chemotherapy is treatment of a disease using drugs that directly poison the disease organism (Microsoft, “Chemotherapy';). Early stage non-small cell lung cancers are best treated surgically and later stage non-small cell lung cancers are best treated with either chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of the two (Virtual Hospital, 3/23/99). For small cell lung cancers, chemotherapy by itself or with radiation therapy is used instead of surgery (Scientific American “Lung Cancer';).
Approximately 152,700 people die each year on account of the colossal lung cancer problem (Microsoft, “Lung Cancer';). Small and non-small cell lung cancers are the two main types of lung cancer. White males prove to be the most affected from lung cancer. High-fat diets and smokers with family histories of heavy smoking are significant factors contributing to lung cancer (Beau Halton). More than two million American smokers have died from smoking-related lung cancer since 1964, when the Surgeon General released the first report on smoking and health (“Lung Cancer Awareness Campaign,'; 3/23/99). Smoking is shown to be the primary cause of lung cancer and people still chose to smoke. The great majority of lung cancer cases could be prevented and thousands of lives could be saved each year if people quit smoking (Microsoft, “Lung Cancer).