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Symptoms Lung Cancer - Identifying Symptoms of Lung Cancer

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Lung cancer is one of the most dangerous forms of cancer. The symptoms of lung cancer can be painful, debilitating, and usually become fatal even after every treatment known to man. In 2009, almost 220,000 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in the United States and over 150,000 people will die due to the complications and symptoms of lung cancer. While 90 percent of lung cancer cases are linked to cigarette smoking, it can also be caused by exposure to many other airborne carcinogens. A few rare cases cases of lung cancer are never specifically identified.

Lung cancer is defined as an abnormal growth of the cells that make up the lungs. In a healthy lung, cells reproduce by cellular division to create new cells whenever old cells become damaged for have lived through their standard lifecycle. It is possible for the mechanisms of the cells that control their division to become disrupted. When this happens, the cells don’t recognize when to stop dividing. This uncontrolled division eventually forms a mass of cells known as a tumor. Some of these tumors are benign, meaning they eventually stop growing and do no real harm to the body. Other tumors are called malignant tumors. They continue to grow very quickly and can spread to other tissues of the body, disrupting their ability to maintain normal activity.

While fatalities can result from lung cancer simply through the disruption of lung activity, namely breathing, often fatality occurs through the spread of the cancer to other sensitive organs, most commonly the brain, liver, adrenal glands and bones.

Most people are diagnosed with lung cancer after the age of 65. Those under 45 account for only 3 percent of cases while 27% of cases occur in the age group of 46 to 64. Very few cases are diagnosed due to the symptoms of lung cancer because symptoms of lung cancer are often nonexistent until the later stages of the disease. Diagnosis usually occurs during routine checkups or as the result of tests performed for other maladies. Lung cancer can be detected through chest x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, bronchoscopy, biopsy, and through blood tests.

Symptoms of lung cancer vary depending on the exact location of the tumor and how advanced it has become. As stated, it is extremely common to experience no symptoms until it is too late for practical treatment.

Common symptoms directly related to lung cancer include the following:
• Shortness of breath
• Wheezing
• Coughing
• Chest pain
• Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
• Secondary infections such as pneumonia or abscesses

If the tumor reaches the nerves cells in the lungs it can cause additional symptoms of lung cancer:
• Radiating shoulder pain
• Hoarseness caused by partial or total paralysis of the vocal cords

If the tumor travels upward to the esophagus or blocks major airways, these symptoms of lung cancer are possible:
• Difficulty swallowing
• Partial collapse of the lung

When lung cancer spreads to other organs it can cause a variety of other symptoms. If it spreads to the bones it can cause excruciating pain. If it spreads to the brain, these symptoms of lung cancer may occur:
• Headaches
• Blurry vision
• Seizures
• Weakness
• Stroke

Many other general symptoms of lung cancer are also experienced by many people suffering from the disease:
• Weight loss
• Fatigue
• Changes in mood
• Depression

Several treatments can be used in attempts to destroy the tumor(s) and relieve the patient from the symptoms of lung cancer. The three most common are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Surgeons may attempt the surgical removal of a tumor when it is in the early stages. Once it has grown too large, surgical removal becomes of the tumor becomes impossible without disrupting the necessary functions of the body’s organs.

Radiation therapy uses directed X-rays or other forms of radiation in an attempt to kill the cells that comprise the tumor. The tumor is rarely destroyed 100 percent through radiation therapy alone, but it can stunt its growth to the point where long-term remission is possible.

Chemotherapy is a term used for treatment of lung cancer and lung cancer symptoms with drugs. Chemotherapy can increase the lifespan of people in the late stages of lung cancer by up to five times, but the drugs used cause a host of symptoms of their own. The symptoms of lung cancer when undergoing chemotherapy can include the following:
• Hair loss
• Nausea and vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Additional weakness and fatigue
• Further risk of infection

Through treatment, symptoms of lung cancer may be temporarily relieved but the prognosis overall for those diagnosed with the disease is not good. Those in the late stages of lung cancer have a survival rate measured in months. The median rate is only two to four months. Of those with early stages diagnosed, only 10% make it five years longer.

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