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Causes & Risk Factors of Lung Cancer

October 07, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

Lung cancer is among the primary causes of death worldwide. In 2019, out of all cancer-related deaths, lung cancer contributed to 24% of deaths in men and 23% in women. It may not be the most common cancer in either of the sexes, but it is, without a doubt, the deadliest. 

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main categories of lung cancer one may be diagnosed with. They both vary in where they originate and how they are treated:

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

About 80% to 85% of lung cancer cases are NSCLC. This is furthered divided into three separate subtypes: adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and large cell carcinomas.

  • Adenocarcinomas occur in the lung's outer regions and have the potential to be detected in the early stages. Although it is most prevalent in smokers, it is also the most common subtype in non-smokers.
  • Squamous cell carcinomas are mostly found in the center of lungs. 
  • Large cell carcinomas can appear in any part of the lungs. They also happen to be the least common subtype.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Small cell lung cancer contributes to 10% to 15% of cases. This is a more aggressive form of lung cancer and is often detected only after it has spread considerably throughout the body.

Causes of lung cancer

The most common cause of lung cancer is cigarette smoke. Around 80% of lung cancer deaths are linked to smoking. This is not a surprise, considering that around 70 types of carcinogens are present in cigarette smoke. Other causes of lung cancer include:

  • Secondhand smoke: Even if you do not smoke yourself, inhaling other people’s cigarette smoke also puts you at high risk of developing cancer.
  • Exposure to radon: Formed naturally in the environment by the radioactive decay of uranium, radon can accumulate to dangerous levels inside homes that are built on uranium deposits.
  • Exposure to asbestos: Individuals working in places such as mines, shipyards, and textile plants usually have high exposure to asbestos, which has been linked to mesothelioma.
  • Other carcinogens such as arsenic, mustard gas, chromium, and nickel.
  • Genetic factors: If you have an extensive family history of lung cancer, you are slightly more likely to be diagnosed with it. Even if you are a non-smoker, you can still be diagnosed for this reason.

Prevention of lung cancer

There is no foolproof method of lung cancer prevention; however, you can take necessary precautions by eliminating all the major risk factors that are known to cause lung cancer, such as:

  • Quit smoking today: Studies show that quitting smoking at any point decreases your chances of getting diagnosed with cancer.
  • Avoid inhaling other people’s cigarette smoke. Simply leave the room when someone lights a cigarette. This is a simple and effective way to reduce your chances of diagnosis.
  • Get radon testing done at your home. Since radon is both odorless and colorless, it can quite easily go undetected.
  • Get the water you drink tested for arsenic.

Signs of lung cancer

Identifying the symptoms of lung cancer can be tricky as most of these are common in other illnesses as well, so it is hard to diagnose it as cancer. The most common lung cancer signs in both NSCLC and SCLC include:

  • A cough that does not seem to go away
  • Coughing up blood or bloody phlegm
  • Chest aches
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Breathing that feels like a chore. Every breath is an effort for someone with lung cancer
  • Sudden loss of weight, without effort

If you have experienced all or most of the symptoms above, you should involve a health care professional as soon as possible. Cura4U understands how difficult in-person consultations can be during the COVID’19 pandemic, which is why it allows patients to consult with doctors in a completely remote and private manner.

Lung Cancer stages

NSCLC stages:

  • Stage 1: Cancer is detected in the lung tissue but has not yet reached the lymph nodes
  • Stage 2: Cancer spreads to the lymph nodes near the lungs
  • Stage 3: Cancer spreads to the chest
  • Stage 4: Cancer spreads to both lungs and other vital organs such as your brain.

SCLC stages:

SCLS has two main stages:

  • Limited stage: Cancer detected in one lung or nearby nodes
  • Extensive stage: Cancer has spread throughout the entire lung, or both lungs, or to the bone marrow and other distant organs. 

When it comes to cancer treatment, most Americans cannot afford the thousands of dollars needed for lab tests and imaging testing such as CT scans and MRI scans. Cura4U allows patients to get these tests done at up to 80% off with complete billing transparency throughout the entire procedure. To find out more about how Cura4U makes healthcare more accessible for everyone, visit our website today.  




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