What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Similar to how the physiological origin of this chronic disease begins, this particular type of cancer manifests in the lungs of the human body. The lungs start producing abnormal cells which then affect the oxygen flow in one’s body. Lung cancer is categorized into three different types: (1) non-small cell lung cancer; (2) small cell lung cancer; and, (3) lung carcinoid cancer. According to the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute (2014), lung cancer is the second most common cancer and the primary cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the United States.
What are the differences between the three types of cancer?
- Non-small cell lung cancer: According to the American Cancer Society, this is the most common type of lung cancer. This particular type of lung cancer produces approximately 85% of the reported deaths of lung cancers.
- Small cell lung cancer: According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 10-15% of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers, which are known to grow and spread quickly.
- Lung carcinoid tumor: According to the American Cancer Society, this particular type of lung cancer is the rarest of the three types of lung cancers because there are fewer than 5% cases of this lung cancer.
How many people are affected by lung cancer?
In 2015, the American Cancer Society has stated an estimated a total of 221, 200 new cases of lung cases (115, 610 in men and 105, 590 in women) and approximately 158,040 reported deaths (86, 380 in men and 71, 660 in women). Every year more deaths are caused by lung cancer (non-small cell and small cell) alone than that total number of deaths in colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined.
The American Cancer Society has also stated that there are about 4, 000 (which is about 1% to 2% of all lung cancers) new cases of lung carcinoid. There is also an observation that people around 60 years are typically diagnosed with lung carcinoid cancer.
What are some of common risk factors for lung cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, a risk factor is defined as anything that affects a person’s chance of getting a disease such as cancer.
There is a list of risk factors on the American Cancer Society’s website:
- Tobacco Smoke: If an individual smokes cigars, pipes, low-tar or light cigarettes, or menthol cigarettes, he or she is at a greater risk than those who do not smoke. According to the American Cancer Society, at least 80% of lung cancer deaths result from smoking.
- Secondhand Smoke: Even if you do not have a smoking habit, surrounding yourself around and breathing in others’ smoke increases your risk of developing lung cancer by about 30% (The American Cancer Society, 2015).
- Radon: According to the American Cancer Society, radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that results from the breakdown of uranium in soil rocks; this gas cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America, and it is the leading cause among non-smokers.
- Asbestos: Asbestoses are fibers existent in mines, mills, textile plants, places where insulation is used, shipyards, etc. Those who smoke, breathe in, and work in any of the aforementioned places are at a much higher risk for lung cancer than those who experience them separately.
- Air or radioactive chemical pollution in a workplace environment:
- Radioactive ores such as uranium
- Inhaled chemicals or minerals such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, silica, vinyl chloride, nickel compounds, chromium compounds, coal products, mustard gas, and chloromethyl ether
- Diesel exhaust
- Personal or family history of lung cancer
For more information and details on the risk factors for lung cancer, please see the following document from the American Cancer Society:
And, remember to quit smoking and/or encourage loved ones to give up their cigarettes, not only for their sake but also for yours.
What are some of the common symptoms of lung cancer?
According to lungcancer.org, the following symptoms of lung cancer occur in the chest:
- Coughing, especially if it persists or becomes intense
- Pain in the chest, shoulder, or back unrelated to pain from coughing
- A change in color or volume of sputum
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in the voice or being hoarse
- Harsh sounds with each breath (stridor)
- Recurrent lung problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Coughing up phlegm or mucus, especially if it is tinged with blood
- Coughing up blood
According to lungcancer.org, the following symptoms of lung cancer may occur elsewhere in the body:
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weigh loss
- Muscle wasting away (also known as cachexia)
- Headaches, bones, or join pain
- Bones fractures not related to accidental injury
- Neurological symptoms, such as unsteady gait or memory loss
- Neck or facial swelling
- General weakness
- Blood clots
If you see any of the symptoms listed above, please call your doctor immediately.
What are some treatments available for lung cancer?
Treatments for the three types of lung cancer are different. Listed below are lists about the various types of treatments for the cancers available on this introduction of lung cancer. There are hyperlinks offered for each treatment below. However, for more information, please go to the American Cancer Society’s website (hyperlink available at the end of this article) or contact us about our, Digital Strategy Yoga’s, detailed videos of the current treatments available for Stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer
2) Radiofrequency ablation
3) Radiation therapy
5) Targeted therapies
Small cell lung cancer
2) Radiation therapy
Lung carcinoid cancer
3) Other drug treatments
4) Radiation therapy
Are there decision aids available for lung cancer? (Ranked from best to worst)
American Cancer Society
This decision tool is currently available on this website on lung cancer. The information is laid out and organized in a user-friendly fashion. There are hyperlinks to different resources on the website itself directing the viewer to descriptions about treatments, side effects, etc. The two most important features of this decision aid are (1) the American Cancer Society’s offering of and connection to support groups for those going through this vulnerable time; (2) ongoing research and impending clinical trials for lung cancer.
NIH (National Institute of Health) National Cancer Institute
This decision aid is concise and explains the complex disease of lung cancer in simple, everyday terms. There are hyperlinks at the bottom to different, invaluable resources. The hyperlinks are organized into four different categories: (1) treatment; (2) research; (3) causes and prevention; and, (4) screening. This resource is a good tool to utilize for those who want straightforward, understandable and updated communication about lung cancer.
This decision aid is one of the most detailed and informative tools, available to the public, about lung cancer treatment options. There are explanations about a treatment overview, list of medications/drugs used in these treatments, explanation behind the combination of treatments, getting care for symptoms and side effects, and treatment of NSCLC by stages of lung cancer. There is also a discussion on what will happen or what to do if treatment fails. This decision aid tool is an informative resource to utilize if you or your loved one is in this sensitive situation.
CareCancer (a cancer-centered facility based in NY)
This decision aid has hyperlinks with a bountiful amount of general information about lung cancer. However, there is not enough research or respectable evidence to support the information provided through this tool.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
This decision aid is an introduction to lung cancer for those who are new to this chronic disease. This tool asks whether you may or may not want to get screened for lung cancer. However, this decision tool is for current or former smokers only.
Digital Tools From the Google Play Store
Lung TNM Calc
Rating: 4.7 Stars
This app is helpful for determining what treatment plan should be best for specific stages of cancer. However, there are two weaknesses to this app. First, the app’s overall design is not as user-friendly as the background. Secondly, the terminology presented in the app is only understandable to medical professionals, not to common laymen. This app may be great for medical professionals to utilize, but the public would not be able to use this app without constantly having to search what the terms in the app mean.
Lung Cancer Staging Tool
Rating: 4.2 Stars
This app is helpful in determining which stage in lung cancer one may be currently in. Its design is descriptive in the execution of information about lung cancer. However, the weakness in this app is that this app would be perfect for the advanced medical professional, but it would not be advised for common people to use due to complex medical terminology.
Digital Strategy Yoga’s CEO, Kalyan Narayanan, participated in a patient education/decision aid competition lead by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF, for short). The goal of the patient education/decision aid competition was focused on innovating a digital tool that lessened the communication gap between the patient and the medical professional if the patient was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in stage four. The submission won third place for most innovative program for those who are suffering from non-small cell lung cancer in the fourth stage. Digital Health Yoga submitted descriptive videos that enable the user to feel like he or she is interacting with the narrator in addition to better enable the viewer to understand his or her condition and treatment options. For more information on this competition and Digital Health Yoga’s third place win, please go to the following link: http://www.health2con.com/devchallenge/chcf-decision-aids-upgrade-challenge/