Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death, not only in the United States, but also around the world. Lung cancer is responsible for an estimated 160,000 deaths in the United States annually. There are two major types: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer, so named because of how the cells look under a microscope. Non-small cell lung cancer is more common, and it generally grows and spreads more slowly. There are three main types of non-small cell lung cancer, named for the type of cells in which the cancer develops: squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer grows more quickly and is more likely to spread to other organs in the body.
Multiple exposure to carcinogens (cancer causing agents) results in damage to DNA in the cells of the body.
Tobacco smoke is the biggest carcinogen, responsible for 85% of all lung cancers in the United States. Risk increases with the amount of tobacco used, and the amount of time it has been used. Non smokers exposed to tobacco smoke are also at risk for developing lung cancer. Other risk factors include:
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with lung cancer, you should see your health care provider. Your health care provider will evaluate your medical history, smoking history, exposure to environmental and occupational substances, and family history of cancer, and will perform a physical exam. Physicians may also analyze your breath to determine if you have lung cancer.
You may be sent for a chest x-ray and other tests. These include a sputum cytology, the microscopic examination of cells obtained from a deep cough sample of mucus in the lungs. A biopsy -- the removal of a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist -- can confirm whether you have cancer.
If you have cancer, your health care provider will want to learn the stage (or extent) of the disease to find out whether the cancer has spread, particularly to the brain or bones, using tests such as computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), radionuclide scan, positron emission tomography, and bone scan.
The best means of prevention is to never start smoking or using chewing tobacco, or to stop using tobacco products. A healthy diet is an important part of prevention.
A treatment plan depends on the cell type, stage of disease, possibility for removing the tumor, and the patient's ability to survive surgery.
Various therapies can treat lung cancer.
Surgery is the only treatment that offers hope of a cure of non-small cell lung cancer. Removal of a small part of the lung is a segmental or wedge resection, removal of an entire lobe of the lung is a lobectomy, and removal of an entire lung is a pneumonectomy. Radiation therapy is used before surgery to shrink a tumor, or after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy may also be used instead of surgery, or it may be used to relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath.
A comprehensive treatment plan for lung cancer may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies. Ask your team of health care providers about the best ways to incorporate these therapies into your overall treatment plan. Always tell your health care provider about the herbs and supplements you are taking.
These nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
Herbs may be an important part of an integrated cancer care strategy, but they should only be prescribed by a knowledgeable practitioner who is in communication with all of your physicians.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of gastritis symptoms (such as nausea and vomiting) based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account your constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for you individually.
An experienced homeopath can prescribe a regimen for supporting general health during lung cancer that is designed especially for you. Acute remedies may be useful for relief of symptoms associated with complications.
Homeopathy may help reduce symptoms and strengthen overall constitution, reduce the effects of stress during cancer, and may help decrease the side effects of chemotherapy.
While acupuncture is not used as a treatment for cancer itself, evidence suggests it can be a valuable therapy for cancer related symptoms (particularly nausea and vomiting that often accompany chemotherapy treatment). Studies indicate that acupuncture may help reduce pain and shortness of breath. Acupressure (pressing on rather than needling acupuncture points) has also proved useful in controlling breathlessness. Patients can learn this technique to treat themselves.
Some acupuncturists prefer to work with a patient only after the completion of conventional medical cancer therapy. Others will provide acupuncture or herbal therapy during active chemotherapy or radiation. Acupuncturists treat cancer patients based on an individualized assessment of the excesses and deficiencies of qi located in various meridians. In many cases of cancer related symptoms, a qi deficiency is usually detected in the spleen or kidney meridians.
The outlook varies by cell type and stage of the disease. In general, the prognosis is better for squamous cell cancers than for adenocarcinomas. Early detection improves chances of survival.
Periodic follow up is useful in helping to detect recurrence of the lung cancer or other smoking-related cancers. Frequent follow up and rehabilitation for loss of lung function from cancer, surgery, or other treatment may be necessary.
Cancer - lung
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