Frequently Asked Questions about Lung Cancer

Are lung cancer symptoms intermittent or constant

Are lung cancer symptoms intermittent or constant?

Lung cancer symptoms include cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are usually progressive and become worse as the tumor keeps on growing. This is a chronic disease, and the symptoms are kept for a long time. However, there is variation between one patient and another in how they experience symptoms. Coughing up blood and shortness of breath can be intermittent symptoms, but the cough is usually constant, especially in patients with lung cancer and smoking habit.

Intermittent symptoms sometimes give patients the wrong idea that their problem is not severe. But after a while, and when the tumor grows bigger, the symptoms become constant and very intense. We don’t want to wait until that happens to do something about it. That’s why it is so important to talk to your doctor about new respiratory symptoms, especially if you have a long history of tobacco smoking.

Are Lung Cancer and Colon Cancer-Related?

Are lung cancer and colon cancer-related?

Lung cancer and colon cancer are both common malignancies. They share similar risk factors, and it is widely accepted that having cancer in one part of the body increases the risk of cancer or metastasis in another part of the body, even distant organs.

In some cases, doctors can find primary lung cancer and primary colon cancer simultaneously in the same patient. The word primary means that neither of them is metastasis. They are independent forms of cancer developing in different parts of the body. This is known as synchronous colorectal and lung cancer, and it is not common.

Cases have been reported in literature reviews, and most of them are heavy smokers, which explains the association between colon and lung cancer with high exposure to carcinogens. However, even in heavy smokers, synchronous colorectal and lung cancer is uncommon. The most common gastrointestinal cancer in relation to lung cancer is esophageal cancer and other types developing near the airways.

Are Lung Cancer Rates Decreasing or Increasing?

Are lung cancer rates decreasing or increasing?

In the early 1900s, lung cancer was somewhat rare, but as the years went by and medicine progressed to diagnose the disease, lung cancer became prevalent. Reaching the end of the 20th century, lung cancer was one of the most common causes of preventable death in many developed countries. More recently, it has become the most common cause of death related to the habit of smoking.

The disease rates are increasing, and this is not only because we have more lung cancer cases. We have also developed new technologies to detect lung cancer and treat the disease at an early stage. Thus, the fact that lung cancer is more commonly diagnosed is both good and bad news.

Is Lung Cancer Curable? 

Is lung cancer curable?

Curing lung cancer depends widely on the stage, the moment of diagnosis, and the health conditions of the affected patient. Only early-stage cancer is curable through surgical excision of the tumor, followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy, depending on the case. Late-stage cancer is more difficult to treat, and most patients do not achieve a complete cure.

However, even early-stage cancer can be difficult to cure sometimes when patients are affected by severe health problems that do not make them candidates for surgery. Thus, every patient should be evaluated individually, and the answer to this question depends on too many factors and the uncertain nature of cancer.

Can Lung Cancer Spread To The Brain?

Can lung cancer spread to the brain?

Late-stage lung cancer loses its adherence to the surrounding tissue, and these malignant cells start to break apart from the primary tumor. As they do, lung cancer starts to spread, first locally in the opposite lung and nearby structures. Then, it spreads to other organs, and some of them are very distant. This is known as metastasis, and it is only found in advanced cancer.

The most common metastasis in lung cancer migrates to the bone tissue, the liver, and the adrenal gland. Metastasis to the nervous system is more common in small-cell lung cancer, which is more aggressive and is usually related to tobacco smoking.

However, metastasis to the nervous system is only suspected when patients start displaying neurologic signs and symptoms. It is not common in adenocarcinoma of the lungs and other types of non-small cell lung cancer.

Can Lung Cancer Cause Back Pain?

Can lung cancer cause back pain?

As the primary tumor spreads in lung cancer, it starts affecting nearby organs and then distant organs, too. In some patients, lung cancer pain is located on the chest but also radiates to the upper back, especially when cancer grows larger and starts creating pressure on the chest.

In patients with lung cancer and metastasis, back pain is also a possibility. It happens because they have metastasis to bony structures of the spine. The affected vertebrae lose their bone mineralization and start to break apart. The pain is similar to that experienced by people with osteoporosis. More severe pain can be experienced by patients who develop a compression syndrome if their vertebrae slip and start pinching the adjacent nerves.

Can Lung Cancer Cause Anemia?

Can lung cancer cause anemia?

Lung cancer causes many other health problems as the tumor keeps on growing. The lungs are deeply involved with blood vessels and perform the function of oxygenation, so it is reasonable to think that lung cancer causes anemia. However, the frequency of anemia cases in lung cancer depends on the tumor stage, the patient’s treatment, and many other aspects of the disease.

Overall, many patients with lung cancer also have anemia at the moment of the diagnosis. They need to be treated with hematopoietic growth factors, vitamins and minerals, and sometimes blood transfusions. Anemia is also common as a result of radiation therapy or chemotherapy in patients with lung cancer.

The reason is deeply involved with the invasion of bone tissue and the bone marrow by metastasis or an impairment of the same structure by chemotherapeutic agents. Sometimes lung cancer leads to metastasis in the gastrointestinal system, causing risk of perforation and gastrointestinal bleeding and nutrient absorption problems that lead to anemia.

Can a blood Test Detect Lung Cancer?

Can a blood test detect lung cancer?

The most reliable way to detect blood cancer is by looking at imaging studies, especially a CT-scan. However, new studies are being developed to detect lung cancer markers in the blood. One of them is called Lung-CLiP, and it is detected in the blood. According to research, it could help identify 40-70% of cases of early-stage cancer in high-risk patients. However, it is essential to remember that this is only a blood marker that is under clinical trials, and it is not yet a standardized blood test to detect lung cancer.

Blood tests are essential in the diagnosis of lung cancer, but not because they detect a tumor. A blood test provides helpful insight into how cancer is affecting the rest of the body and gives doctors information to be used in the treatment protocol. It also offers a valuable prognosis because electrolyte alterations and hypercalcemia are known markers of a bad prognosis.

Can Lung Cancer Cause High Blood Pressure?

Can lung cancer cause high blood pressure?

Lung cancer spreads to different organs, and one of them is the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys. The adrenal glands release adrenaline into the blood, and this hormone is known to increase the heart rate and blood pressure. Thus, metastatic lung cancer can trigger high blood pressure when it takes the adrenal glands. This elevation of blood pressure should be evaluated in different settings because sometimes lung cancer patients feel apprehensive and nervous in the doctor’s office, which naturally increases their blood pressure without any metastasis.

It is also useful to differentiate high blood pressure from arterial pulmonary hypertension, which is more common in lung cancer. This is basically hypertension inside of the lungs, and it typically affects one lung. Pulmonary hypertension can cause edema, shortness of breath, and other signs and symptoms common in lung cancer. It involves the heart function indirectly and may lead to cardiovascular complications.

What Type Of Lung Cancer Is Caused by Smoking?

What type of lung cancer is caused by smoking?

The most common cause of lung cancer is smoking because tobacco smoke contains thousands of carcinogens and other substances that induce inflammation and other lung tissue changes. Most cases of cancer are related to smoking, but not all of them. These patients have in common that most of them develop more aggressive diseases and their cardiorespiratory comorbidities are far worse. It is more likely to find complications and late-stage disease in smokers.

The most aggressive type of lung cancer is known as small-cell lung cancer. More than 70% of patients with small-cell lung cancer had a smoking history and are diagnosed when the disease has reached a late stage. Smoking can also trigger other types of cancer, such as adenocarcinoma of the lung. But the most common type of lung cancer caused by smoking is small-cell lung cancer. It is also one of the most dangerous types of lung cancer.

What Type Of Lung Cancer Is Caused by Asbestos?

What type of lung cancer is caused by asbestos?

Asbestos is associated with a high risk of a type of cancer known as mesothelioma. Given the current legislation, asbestos is not commonly used in construction work, and mesothelioma incidence is infrequent. This type of cancer forms in the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura. It can also lead to cancer in the heart, abdomen, and other organ linings.

Mesothelioma does not appear precisely in the lungs but the external lung coating. It scatters throughout the mesothelial lining and all around the lungs instead of forming a mass or nodule. This type of cancer frequently spreads to other parts of the chest and does not always metastasize.

How Does Lung Cancer Look Like?

How does lung cancer look like?

In most cases, lung cancers are visually apparent in X-rays or a CT-scan, and that’s how doctors diagnose the disease. In the chest X-rays, it looks like a mass or nodule in the lungs. It may look like a black or white spot on your lungs, depending on the type of cancer and the stage. An interesting feature is that lung cancer does not have calcifications, which look like white strings in the X-rays.

Your doctor will obtain a more detailed look at the lesion and the surrounding areas in a CT scan. Cancer is usually irregular and spiculated. It looks abnormal in most imaging tests.

Under the microscope, lung cancer looks very different from healthy tissue. As the disease progresses, the cells lose their characteristics and become more and more abnormal. They have varying shapes and sometimes more than one nucleus. They lose their capacity to adhere to tissues and start migrating to other parts of the body.

When Does Lung Cancer Spread?

When does lung cancer spread?

Lung cancer only spreads in an intermediate to late stage of the disease. In the initial phase, tumor cells are similar to healthy cells, and the main difference is the rate of cell division. As the tumor keeps growing, more mutations overlap, and the cells start losing their properties. One of these properties is adhesion to the adjacent tissues. Adhesion prevents cells from traveling to other parts of the body. Instead, they stay in place in the tissue they are assigned to.

When cancer cells lose their adhesive capacity, they are easily broken down and dispersed in the adjacent tissue. Thus, one of the initial spreads is localized in the cancer’s vicinity, especially in the lymph nodes and nearby tissue. As cancer keeps growing and the cells lose more properties, it starts to travel through the lymphatic system and the blood to other structures such as the bone, the adrenal glands, and the brain.

Does Lung Cancer Come Back after Treatment?

Does lung cancer come back after treatment?

Recurrence is the name of cancer that comes back after being apparently cured by cancer treatment. This happens to any type of cancer, and it does not mean that your doctor was careless or did something wrong. Even patients who follow a strict treatment protocol can have a recurrence.

This happens for many reasons. One of them is resistance to treatment by cells that were spreading from the primary tumor. They could display different mutations that were not sensitive to the type of therapy you were receiving and took away the primary tumor. Thus, recurrent tumors sometimes develop in the same lung, the opposite lung, or in another organ.

Another possibility is that you were diagnosed with apparently early-stage cancer, but nobody knew that it was already spreading. Localized cancer was treated appropriately, but the spreading cells were not considered in the treatment protocol.

Where Is Lung Cancer More Common?

Where is lung cancer more common?

Lung cancer can be localized in different parts of the lungs. There are basically three sections of the lungs: the central part, the peripheral part, and the pleura. In the central part of the lung, we can find the upper airways and their branches. In the peripheral portion of the lungs, we have spongy tissue without major airways. The pleura is the lungs’ outer lining, and it is in close contact with the chest wall, the mediastinum, and other structures.

The most common location of lung cancer depends on the type. Small cell lung cancer is a more aggressive type, and it can be located in the peripheral part of the lungs. Since it doesn’t directly contact the airways, patients do not cough or have obstructive symptoms until cancer has already grown bigger. Other types of cancer are easier to detect because they are located in the center of the lungs, and they are also more common.

Where Is Lung Cancer Pain Located?

Where is lung cancer pain located?

Lung cancer does not always cause pain, or at least not in the early stages of the disease. But when it causes pain, it is usually located near the trouble area. It is typically close to the primary lesion. In some cases, lung cancer causes pain in the airways, especially in patients with chronic cough. So, you could also have a sore throat.

The pain is not always felt in the chest. In some cases, it can be felt in your shoulders or your back. It all depends on what part of the lungs is taken by the disease and what nerve terminals it is affecting. It may or may not get worse when you cough or sneeze, and it can be intermittent, constant, sharp, or dull.

Which Lung Cancer Is Worse?

Which lung cancer is worse?

Lung cancer is never a good diagnosis, but lung cancer types are typically more aggressive than others. Small cell lung cancer is one of them. This type of lung cancer develops in chronic smokers, and it is one of the most aggressive types. One of the problems of small-cell lung cancer is that it won’t cause any symptoms at the early stage of the disease. This is especially true in cancers located at the lungs’ periphery because they are not in close contact with the airways.

Small-cell lung cancer is usually diagnosed when the disease has already advanced. Most of these patients have aggressive cancer that already spread to other tissues inside the thorax and other distant organs. Small-cell lung cancer also has a worse prognosis, especially at the late stage of the disease.

Why Lung Cancer Causes Pleural Effusion and Cough?

Why lung cancer causes pleural effusion and cough?

Each symptom of lung cancer has an explanation. Cough is perhaps one of the easiest to explain, mainly when cancer is located near the airways. There’s an inflammatory process going on around cancer, and the airways start to create a lot of mucus. Mucus clots are formed, and the lungs try to eliminate them by coughing. There is also a destruction of the lining of the airways and debris formation that the body tries to eliminate by coughing.

Pleural effusion is fluid that collects around the lungs. It starts to accumulate when the lungs’ periphery is affected by the tumor and when it spreads to the pleura. There is a little bit of fluid in the pleural space, but when cancer cells develop in this area, they increase the production of this fluid and may reduce its absorption by blocking the liquid’s regular draining. Other types of cancer also cause pleural effusion by similar causes, including breast cancer and lymphoma. The most common type of cancer associated with lymphoma formation is mesothelioma.

Why Lung Cancer Causes Weight Loss?

Why lung cancer causes weight loss?

Lung cancer is in close contact with a massive amount of blood every second and robs many nutrients and oxygen from the blood. It consumes a lot of energy to keep creating new cells and dividing. This creates a significant metabolic burden and increases the calories we spend at rest. So, even when you’re not exercising, cancer takes up extra calories as if you were doing physical activity.

Additionally, some patients with lung cancer experience a reduction in appetite levels. They are consuming fewer nutrients and calories while burning extra calories at rest. Thus, they are more likely to lose weight as the disease progresses.

Why Nonsmokers Develop Lung Cancer?

Why nonsmokers develop lung cancer?

Tobacco smoking is only one risk factor for lung cancer, but it is far from being the only one. Radon exposure, radiation, asbestos, and many other risk factors may also contribute. You may not have any of these risk factors and still grow lung cancer if you have a genetic predisposition. Smog and contamination can also contribute to lung cancer.

A common reason for lung cancer in nonsmokers is secondhand smoke, especially if you live or work with people who smoke. Thus, if you spend a lot of time at work or at home with smokers, it would be a good idea to buy an air cleaner, which takes out secondhand smoke and reduces your risk of lung cancer.

If you want to evaluate your personal risk for lung cancer or feel worried about having smokers at home or family members with the disease, talk to your doctor to see if you’re a candidate for lung cancer screening and what you can do about it.