Lung Cancer Kills 160 000 People in the US Each Year Alone
Lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined, reports the Centers for Disease Control, making it the deadliest cancer of them all. Nearly 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year. Of those, 160,000 die.
Why is it the deadliest? Lungs are made to withstand a lot of stress, so by the time symptoms of the malignancy become noticeable, the disease is already in the advanced stages. With the rising incidence in women and survival rates scarcely improving, the outlook for the newly diagnosed is grim.
Cigarette smoking is still by far the biggest contributor to lung cancer, although some 30,000 Americans who have never smoked still develop the malignancy. Radon gas, a byproduct of decaying uranium present in the earth’s soil is the second leading cause. Second-hand smoke, asbestos, air pollution and other carcinogen exposures are also contributors.
Although lung cancer appears to happen overnight it in fact, develops very slowly, sometimes over a period of years. As the cancer forms, it releases chemicals that cause new blood vessels to form which feeds the tumor, allowing it to increase in size and strength.
Symptoms include increased cough, wheezing, hoarseness, coughing up blood, (even a little,) and unexplained weight loss. Mayo Clinic advises people to report to their doctor any sign or symptom that is worrisome.
The first step in diagnosis is a chest x-ray. If the chest x-ray is negative and there is still suspicion, such as a smoker who suddenly develops a raspy voice, a CT is ordered for a more detailed cross-sectioned image of the lungs.
Traditional treatment includes surgery, radiation or chemotherapy or a combination of any of the three. New medications are Tarceva, an oral medication that inhibits tumor cell growth and Avastin, an IV medication that blocks the vessels that feed the tumor. Occasionally, a lung transplant is performed as a last resort and only in cases that meet strict criteria.
As always, a healthy diet and adequate exercise is beneficial in reducing the risk of lung cancer. According to a European study found that eating a mix of vegetables and fruit decreased the risk of developing the disease in current smokers and the American Association for Cancer Research found that physical activity also lowered the risk. Still, the best prevention for lung cancer is still to quit smoking and to avoid exposure to known carcinogens.