Lung cancer

The cancer that causes the highest number of deaths among men is lung cancer. It is also becoming morend more widespread among women. In Switzerland, there are about 3 200 new cases every year. Smoking is the single biggest risk factor, with 90% of cases being attributable to cigarette smoke. It is not until a very advanced stage of the illness that symptoms (e.g. coughing, breathing difficulties, coughing up blood, and weight loss) appear. Treatment depends on the type of cancer, and can be an operation, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. Recovery rates are mediocre, since only 13% of lung cancer sufferers are still alive five years after being diagnosed.

Lung cancer and respiratory problems

 

moking alone is responsible for nine out of ten cases of lung cancer!

Development

Burning tobacco can reach a temperature of 850°C. The hot cigar or cigarette smoke that a smoker breathes in progressively alters the protective layer of mucous in the bronchi and paralyses the tiny protective hairs. As the person continues to smoke, the hairs become damaged and eventually disappear (see the photos). It becomes impossible for the lungs to expel secretions and all the little polluting particles that are breathed in. Coughing therefore becomes the only means of partially eliminate mucous and particles. In the final phase, persistent irritation radically transforms the mucous lining and promotes “airway mucous metaplaysia” which lays the foundations for cancer. Instead of staying in a single layer, the cells begin to pile up. Even after a person has completely smoking, this metaplaysia takes more than a year to go away!

Symptoms

Lung cancer frequently produces no symptoms in the beginning. It is often discovered only when cancerous cells spread to other parts of the body such as the brain, bones, or liver. However, lung cancer can manifest itself in the following ways:

  • A cough that becomes chronic or suddenly changes
  • Coughing up blood or blood-stained sputum
  • Persistent respiratory infections
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • Prolonged fever
  • Pain in the ribcage
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fatigue

Methods of Diagnosis

  • Lung X-ray
  • Fiberoptic endoscopy or bronchoscopy: the doctor introduces a tube fitted with a microcamera and small instruments through the trachea and into the bronchi in order to view the lesions and collect samples for laboratory analysis.
  • Scans

Treatment

  • Surgical intervention to remove the cancerous cells
  • Radiotherapy (rays) and/or chemotherapy (injection of drugs)

The only treatment that really works is prevention. While treatment only helps to cure 1 lung cancer sufferer in 10, removing smoking from the equation would prevent 9 out of 10 instances of the disease!

Causes of lung cancer

  1. Smoking (the main cause!)
  2. Exposure in the work place to radon (a radioactive product), asbestos, arsenic or nickel
  3. Radiation
  4. Air pollution

Prognosis

For people who are diagnosed with lung cancer:

The 1-year survival rate is 40.5%

The 5-year survival rate is 14.2%

Statistics

Lung cancer represents 11.5% of cancers that affect adults (15.8% for men and 7.1% for women). In Switzerland, the incidence of lung cancer is 87 in 100 000.

Lung cancer represents 17% of deaths from cancer (24.1% for men and 10.3% for women). In Geneva, Switzerland, it is the third most deadly cancer among women (after breast cancer and colon cancer) and the most deadly cancer among men.

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A smoker who smokes one packet of cigarettes per day in his or her lifetime will consume more than 500 000 cigarettes! Given that a cigarette contains 0.01g of particles, that adds up to over 5 kg of toxic particles deposited in the lungs!

Find out more

References

 

Photos


 

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Source: Dr J-C Pache, Département de pathologie et immunologie, Université de Genève, Suisse


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ENT (ear, nose and throat) Cancers – Tracheal Tumor

Here, the open trachea divides into two big bronchial tubes, but the airways are blocked by a tumor at the point where the trachea branches (the carina). The man died of this tumor at the age of 58.

Source: Dr J-C Pache, Department of Pathology and Immunology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

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Lung cancer and respiratory problems – Lung

The surface of the lung is dark grey from carbon particles inhaled over a long period of time. The white nodules are a typical form of cancer known as “small-cell carcinoma”. This tumor is one of those that advance the quickest. By the time of diagnosis most of these tumors have already produced secondary tumors (metastases), very often in the brain, the liver or the bone. The tumors are strongly associated with smoke. This man died of his tumor at the age of 43.

Source: Dr J-C Pache, Department of Pathology and Immunology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

 

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Lung cancer and respiratory problems – Lung carcinoma

This is part of a lung that has a carcinoma; the white parts correspond to the cancer, the red parts to the lung without a tumor. We see that the tumor has grown along the small blood vessels, coloring the affected part of the lung’s structure white. By the time the tumor has spread this much, it has already produced secondary tumors all over the body.

Source: Dr J-C Pache, Department of Pathology and Immunology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

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Lung cancer and respiratory problems – bronchial carcinoma

Here is a central part of the lung. In the middle, we see the open bronchi and next to them, the red and blackish parts are the lungs themselves with internal bleeding. The white lumps are lung cancer. The woman was a smoker.

Source: Dr J-C Pache, Department of Pathology and Immunology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

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Lung cancer and respiratory problems – Left lung carcinoma

View of the two lungs from the diaphragm, i.e. from below. The right lung is a normal size whereas the left lung has been completely taken over by a carcinoma (cancer) which has encased the pleura (folds of the lung) so that the left lung is trapped in a cage created by the tumor. This left lung no longer performs any breathing function at all.

Source: Dr J-C Pache, Department of Pathology and Immunology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

 

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