Cancer is one such disease which affects individuals from all races and age groups. Most of the cases end in death since a cure for cancer has not yet been discovered. When a specific group of cells in the body begins to develop at an abnormal pace in an uncontrolled manner, it can result in cancer. These cancerous cells have the tendency to metastasize and spread to other parts of the body, thus affecting the tissues and organs.
Extensive damage to the tissues can result in multiple organ failure, which can be life-threatening and may even prove fatal. The progression of cancer, in most of the cancers, is categorized into five stages (including stage 0), according to the severity of the symptoms and metastasis of the disease.
Cancer affects the lungs, when there is a foreign body present in the organ which triggers the unhealthy growth of certain cells. There are two types, depending on the size and nature of the cancerous cells, - small cell and non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It has been observed that more number of people are affected with lung cancer in comparison to other cancers. This lung disease may be also termed as carcinoma owing to the fact that the epithelial cells present in the inner lining of the lungs tend to multiply abnormally.
This is one of the worst types of cancer, since the treatment options are very few. The staging for cancer of the lungs is done according to the symptoms exhibited by this life-threatening disease. There are four stages of cancer, out of them the final stage is the most severe, where the condition cannot be reversed.
Causes of Lung Cancer
Various factors are responsible for the occurrence of cancer. Given below are some of the common causes of both small cell and non small cell lung cancer.
- One of the main triggers of both types of carcinoma is smoking. A recent research has found out that even passive smoking (also known as secondhand smoking) is as harmful as active smoking.
- Since the lungs are more exposed to the external environment as compared to other organs in the body, inhaling harmful fumes and gases like radon can cause cancer.
- It is also considered to be an occupational hazard. This cancer is more common in individuals working in carpet mills, asbestos factories, and firecracker industries, etc.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Unfortunately, the early symptoms are not so evident during the initial stages and may be exhibited only when the cancer progresses. Due to this fact, diagnosis of this deadly disease often lapses and is administered only when the disease has progressed beyond treatment.
- One of the early signs is coughing, also referred to as smoker's cough. Some individuals may cough up traces of blood.
- Wheezing or difficulty in breathing and swallowing. A slight burning sensation can be felt in the trachea (or wind pipe) and chest region.
- A few individuals may even complain of unexplained weight loss and generalized body weakness.
- Other symptoms may include chest pain, hoarseness in the throat, and headache, which may range from mild to throbbing.
Treatment and Prognosis for Stage 4 Lung Cancer
Stage 4 is the final stage of cancer, wherein, the cancer has metastasized from the lungs, to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy is introduced to prolong the life of the patient, however, surgical method is not effective at this stage, due to the spread of cancer. Lung cancer can be classified into two types: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). SCLC type is very dangerous and if left untreated, allows the patient to live for not more than 2 to 4 months. However, with treatment about 5 to 10% people make it to at least 5 years.
The other type, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the less dangerous type, however, even then only 10 to 15% of people in stage 4 are seen to make it to at least 5 years. The overall prognosis is very low in comparison to other cancers and the survival rate is, sadly, very bleak.
It is tough to predict how long can a person survive with stage 4 lung cancer, since proper cancer treatment has not yet been discovered, especially for the final stage. But thanks to modern medicine and advanced technology, life expectancy of cancer patients has increased. Wish you good health!