The importance of lungs in the proper functioning of the human body is not hidden from anybody. Their significance has never been clearer as the world reels from the effect of COVID-19, which impacts the lungs directly. Lungs allow you to breathe and are thus essential to your existence. 

Among the diseases that affect the lungs, one of the most common is lung cancer. In fact, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths across the world. 

Let’s find out more about the causes and risk factors of lung cancer.

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled and abnormal growth of cells in the lungs. 

Usually, lung cancer starts in the lining of the bronchi (the two large tubes that carry air to your lungs). It can also form in glands below the lining of the bronchi, often in the outer areas of the lungs.

There are 2 types of lung cancer:

  • Small cell lung cancer: This type of cancer occurs in heavy smokers and is less common than non-small cell lung cancer. It grows and spreads to other parts of the body quickly. 

  • Non-small cell lung cancer: This is a broad term covering several types of lung cancers based on the type of cells from which cancer develops. It usually grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer.

What Are The Causes of Lung Cancer?

The causes behind each case of lung cancer are not known, although several of its risk factors are known. 

In some cases, lung cancer may develop without any risk factor being present.

What Are The Risk Factors of Lung Cancer?

Several factors, some controllable and some uncontrollable, increase your chances of getting lung cancer.

  • Smoking

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke

  • Family history of lung cancer

  • History of radiation therapy

  • Exposure to radon gas

  • Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens at the workplace

  • Air pollution

The incidence of lung cancer is higher in men than in women, although women are not far behind in the numbers.

What Are The Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Those with lung cancer may not have any symptoms at an early stage. 

Early symptoms resemble those of a respiratory infection and include:

  • Frequent chest infections

  • Swelling in the lymph nodes in the middle of the chest.

  • A persistent and worsening cough with blood in the sputum

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

  • Hoarseness

  • Fatigue

The symptoms get more severe as cancer advances. 

The Importance of Screening For Lung Cancer

Screening refers to testing for a disease when there are no symptoms or known history of the disease.

The recommended screening test for lung cancer is called low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). Annual screening with a non-contrast low-dose CT scan may help in reducing the number of deaths due to lung cancers. 

During an LDCT scan, an X-ray machine uses a low dose of radiation to provide detailed images of your lungs. Such scans help in identifying lung cancer early, at a stage when it is more amenable to treatment, and thus potentially curable. 

Following an active lifestyle, eating healthy, and not smoking, can help prevent the chances of several diseases, including lung cancer. 

If you feel that you may have symptoms related to lung cancer, reach out for medical attention immediately. 

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.