What is lung cancer?Lung cancerous lesions (alveoli) in the neckline are marked. Click to enlarge.
Lung cancer or bronchial carcinoma is a malignant cancer in the lungs. In particular, there is an uncontrolled and degenerate proliferation of cells of the bronchi or respiratory tract. These then destroy the healthy tissue in the process, which ultimately leads to the death of the affected person.
From a medical point of view, lung cancer can be divided into two forms: 1. Small cell bronchial carcinoma and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is usually localized in the lungs and rarely forms metastases.
Therefore, the chance of recovery is significantly higher here than in small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer, in turn, can be differentiated into squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell bronchial carcinoma.
Although small cell bronchial carcinomas are rarer, their effect on humans is far more dangerous. They are very aggressive and grow very fast. In addition, they form metastases early on. Lung cancer is very common in Germany. Almost every third tumor disease is a bronchial carcinoma. However, those affected are usually older than 60 years. On average, men develop lung cancer twice as often as women.
The main causes of lung cancer are smoking and inhaling carcinogenic substances, vapors and gases in working life and everyday life. At around 90%, smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer. When smoking, hundreds of carcinogenic substances are inhaled, so that a regular smoker has 40 times more chance of getting lung cancer. But passive smoking also represents a huge risk and should not be underestimated.
Carcinogenic substances of the environment, working life and everyday life are the second most frequently considered. Even if the share of this group seems rather low at around 5 percent, these cases occur again and again. In particular, the following substances can lead to lung cancer through inhalation:
- Asbestos, asbestos dust
- Radioactive substances
- Nickel in costume jewelery
- Dirt in the cement (chromium 6 compounds)
- Benzene in gasoline
Other causes include: Pulmonary scars as a result of pneumonia or injury, Genetic or hereditary preloading caused by lung cancer family members.
Typical symptoms & signsInfogram on the various lung diseases and their characteristics, anatomy and location. Click to enlarge.
The treacherous thing about lung cancer is that the symptoms do not become apparent until the disease is very advanced. The signs may also indicate other respiratory diseases. Typical signs of lung cancer include coughing, dyspnoea, chest pain, (bloody) sputum, dysphagia, fatigue, general malaise and weight loss.
If these symptoms occur together, a doctor should be consulted. Coughing is usually a persistent condition lasting more than three weeks, which is aggravated or chronic. However, these symptoms are not just typical of lung cancer. They can also be signs of another respiratory disease.
These include, for example, bronchitis, pneumonia (pneumonia), bronchial asthma and pulmonary fibrosis. Heavy smokers or people who otherwise belong to the risk group for lung cancer should consult a doctor for these symptoms. Furthermore, regular health checks at the family doctor are the duty of every human being in order to detect and treat a possible tumor in good time.
In order to relieve the symptoms in everyday life, sufferers should take special care and avoid that the respiratory tracts are additionally strained by physical stress or freezing cold.
The disease course of lung cancer can be represented in three stages. First, there is inhalation or contact with carcinogenic substances, such as nicotine, asbestos or tar. Afterwards it comes in the consequence to the damage of the lung cells and airways. In this case, above all, the genome of the cells is changed or damaged. After a mostly multi-year rest period (latency up to 30 years), the genetically modified cells of the lungs or respiratory tract start to grow and multiply rapidly. It then comes to the typical tumors or tumors of lung cancer.
So far, the prognosis for lung cancer is extremely high. Nevertheless, a cure can be made if the lung cancer is detected in time. Furthermore, the type of tumor and age and gender also play a significant role. Women usually have greater chances to recover. Nevertheless, the average chances of survival are relatively low at around 30 percent. Untreated lung cancer usually leads to death within 6 months.
In most cases, the lung cancer leads to the death of the patient or to a significantly reduced life expectancy. The quality of life is also significantly limited by this disease, so sufferers from a strong cough and continue to suffer from respiratory distress. Furthermore, respiratory distress often leads to a reduced resilience and fatigue of the patient. The affected feel choppy and also suffer from chest pain.
Furthermore, lung cancer also leads to weight loss and loss of appetite. Patients also often suffer from fever and cough. Also the everyday life is restricted, since physically strenuous activities usually can not be carried out any more. A self-healing does not occur and the lung cancer leads in most cases to the death of the patient after about one year, if this is not treated.
The sooner the cancer is diagnosed, the higher the patient's chances of survival. During treatment, part of the lung is removed. There may be various side effects with chemotherapy. In the worst case, the metastases spread to other areas of the body and can lead to cancer there as well. This significantly reduces the life expectancy of the person concerned.
When should you go to the doctor?
Lung cancer makes a visit to a doctor necessary in any case. This applies to the suspicion of this disease as well as to complications or complaints after having already made a diagnosis.
Blood in the sputum is also a classic sign of lung cancer as stubborn irritable cough, so such complaints should be clarified by the doctor. Blood from coughing can indicate lung cancer as well as other diseases such as TBC, but in many cases also a broken vein, which would be harmless.
If lung cancer is already diagnosed, going to the doctor is not necessarily limited to treatment appointments. Even with sudden or massive complaints such as shortness of breath or chest pain while breathing the doctor should be consulted. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can have side effects that also require a doctor's visit. Massive nausea, fatigue or bone pain justify the walk to the doctor. Mental disorders are also a reason to visit the family doctor or a psycho-oncologist who knows the means to alleviate the mental stress that comes with the diagnosis of lung cancer.
After treated lung cancer, the prescribed control intervals must be observed. But even outside the appointments, a lung cancer patient can visit the doctor if he feels new symptoms. Often a diagnosis between the intervals can then contribute to the reassurance.
Treatment & Therapy
A therapy for lung cancer is not only advisable but vital, otherwise the chances of survival are zero. Therefore, it is important to discover lung cancer as early as possible and start treatment.
Depending on the stage of the disease, the removal of the cancerous tissue by surgery and / or chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy are used. If a non-small cell bronchial carcinoma is successfully removed during surgery, the chances of recovery are well.
However, if metastases (secondary tumors) have spread, then it is hardly possible to assume a cure. The goal of radiation therapy is to destroy metastases or prevent the formation of new ones.
After the actual cancer treatment, those affected need permanent care. These include regular medical examinations and the pursuit of further therapies. Above all, it requires a change in lifestyle. Smokers should definitely refrain from further nicotine consumption and refrain altogether. Also regular exercise and a balanced diet promote recovery.
In order to regain the usual quality of life, sufferers are sometimes dependent on the support of the responsible physicians and acquaintances and friends. This usually helps them to process the disease as well. The family doctor can consult cancer counseling centers, psycho-oncologists and social partners. Visiting a self-help group is also an important part of aftercare.
The follow-up plan is prepared together with the doctor and is based on the symptoms, the general course of the disease and the prognosis. In the first phase, when patients are still processing the consequences of the disease and treatment, follow-up care is particularly important. It is crucial to support the patients until a remission has been achieved. If the treatment was successful, the risk of relapse decreases annually. In the case of a serious stage of disease, permanent follow-up and follow-up are merged.
Outlook & Forecast
The prospects for lung cancer are poor. In Germany, the disease is one of the most common tumors. Looking at mortality rates gives a bleak picture. A good half of those affected no longer live after five years. In practice, it proves to be problematic that a diagnosis usually takes place only at an advanced stage. This is based on the fact that complaints only occur and are unspecific.
A screening test does not exist so far. Statistically, it has long been that lung cancer was considered a male disease. This was mainly due to their cigarette consumption. In the meantime, however, women are increasingly consuming nicotine, which is why the number of cases is approaching.
However, there are also criteria that can be expected to be positive. This results in more favorable chances for women to heal. Even a low age has a positive effect. Furthermore, a favorable location and type of tumor increase life expectancy. A non-small cell cancer can be treated much better. After the diagnosis of lung cancer, patients have to expect a greatly reduced life expectancy. If a cure succeeds, there is a high risk of relapse. This is a lot higher for smokers.
You can do that yourself
The possibilities of self-help are severely limited in this cancer. The affected people can relieve the complaints limited, but not completely combat.
Because lung cancer weakens the immune system and the body in general, those affected should not engage in physical activity or strenuous activity. The patient has to take care of his body. If some things of everyday life are no longer readily available, so the help of friends, acquaintances or nurses is necessary. In the case of lung cancer, the person concerned should completely abstain from smoking and consuming alcohol. The typical lack of appetite for cancer should also be counteracted. Special prepared food for cancer patients is available in pharmacies. In some cases, the intake of dietary supplements is necessary to prevent deficiency symptoms.
Furthermore, the disease can also lead to mental upsets. In this case, contact with other people is advisable to talk about the further course of the disease. Even children should always be informed about the disease and its consequences. For mental health problems, conversations with your closest friends or with your family are very helpful and can help prevent depression. In general, a warm and warm care of the person affected by familiar people has a very positive effect.