Lung cancer derives from an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs, cells that do not carry out the functions of normal lung cells and do not develop into healthy lung tissue. As the abnormal cells spread, they can form tumors and interfere with the normal functions of the lungs, which provide oxygen to the body through the blood.
It has been proven that it takes a great deal of of mutations to create a lung cancer cell. While precancerous cells may exist, they often only feature some mutations, but still function as a normal lung cell. In this cellular process, it’s important to realize that when a genetically mutated cell divides, its abnormal genes pass to the new cells, and the process goes on, spreading cells with DNA errors exponentially. As an result of this process, every new mutation makes the lung tissue more mutated, what causes less effective cellular functionality.
In more advanced stages of lung cancer, some cells may fall apart from the original tumor and start spreading to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis (the new distant sites are referred to as metastases).
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Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Symptoms of lung cancer can be felt in the chest and other parts of the body. Chest symptoms include intense coughing, pain in the chest, shoulder, or back, a change in color or volume of sputum, shortness of breath, changes in the voice, stridor, recurrent lung problems (like bronchitis or pneumonia), and coughing up phlegm, mucus and/or blood.
If metastases occur, lung cancer symptoms can spread throughout the body to other parts of the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, brain, liver, and adrenal glands. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, cachexia, fatigue, headaches, bone or joint pain, unsteady gait or memory loss, neck or facial swelling, general weakness, bleeding and blood clots.
There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). To determine the stage of the cancer, specialists determine whether a patient has a one-site cancer, or if the disease has spread from the lungs to other organs. Lungs are large enough for tumors to grow inside for a long time before they are discovered.
It is frequent that patients disregard symptoms like coughing or fatigue because they are so easily related with other conditions or causes. That is one the reasons that make lung cancer difficult to spot in its early stages. As a result, people with lung cancer are often diagnosed at stages III and IV of the disease.
Lung Cancer Treatments and Drugs
Both patient and doctor should choose a treatment plan for lung cancer bearing in mind a range of factors, such as the type and stage of the cancer, the general health of the patient, and also his or her personal treatment preferences. Among the options available, it is common to include one or more treatment approaches, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other specific medications.
Research is being conducted at several institutions in Texas, where researchers are looking at new ways to early detect lung cancer and to improve treatment results. Among those institutions are the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas at Dallas, and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
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