BY HARNOOR GILL
Grade 10 student
Christ The King Catholic Secondary
LUNG cancer is a deadly disease that takes countless lives away each year. It’s North America’s top killer in cancer and takes about 160,000 lives each year in the United States of America. It doesn’t matter if you have ever smoked, what your gender / genetics is or even what your ethnicity is because it is a ruthless disease that can harm anyone in its path.
Just like all other cancers, lung cancer occurs because of an abnormality in its cell growth and cell division. A disruption in the cell division process is not noticeable at first but can become deadly in a couple of years. This is because once the stage of interphase keeps getting skipped each time and just continued with mitosis and cytokinesis instead, it can result in an uncontrolled division of cancer cells that can eventually form a tumor.
There are two different types of tumors which are known as benign and malignant. Benign tumors are usually treatable as they can be removed and mostly don’t spread to other parts of the body. However, malignant tumors are the complete opposite as they grow aggressively with rapid reproduction and they invade other tissues of the body too. Malignant tumors unfortunately also allow the entry of these tumor cells into the bloodstream and then to other parts of the body. The process of this spreading of cancer cells is known as metastasis and the tumor growth at these different sites is known as metastases. Lung cancer is very life-threatening for one reason and one reason alone which is because this cancer tends to metastasize or spread at an early stage and in most cases right after it forms. This is why it’s one of the most difficult cancers to treat as well.
Statistics even prove this by telling us that one in every 14 people will unfortunately be diagnosed with lung cancer and it kills more people than breast, prostate, pancreatic and colorectal cancers combined. In terms of gender, lung cancer kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer does and almost three times as many men in prostate cancer. One of the most bizarre facts also happens to be that approximately 60% of all of the new diagnoses for lung cancer are amongst people who have never smoked or happen to be former smokers. This cancer even accounts for 14% of all new cancer diagnoses but 27% of all the cancer-related deaths.
There are ways to reduce the risk of lung cancer, too. Doctors don’t have an exact way of reducing this with an operation or surgery, but they can notify people of the risks that cause it. Some ways to reduce are to stay healthy by eating super foods that are healthy for you and staying in shape. Super foods can be tomatoes, carrots, avocadoes, broccoli and celery or anything that is defined as a fruit / vegetable.
Lung cancer has been increasing at a rate of 3% each year mainly because of carcinogens in the environment and some rare cases of genetics as well. These carcinogens can be from pollution produced by cars, methane gas in the environment, trees that die creating less oxygen and the worst of them all, smoking of any sort. The cancer is triggered by the environment through these activities. Tobacco smoke causes most of the lung cancer as the lungs inhale it right away. The harmful substances in the tobacco smoke damage the cells in the lungs and they also make the lungs more vulnerable to other cancer-causing factors from the environment.
Radon is a radioactive gas that is not visible and you cannot taste or smell it. People in the workforce get affected by cancerous hazards such as radon. This would affect people in the construction or mining industry as it forms naturally in soil and rocks. Radon can even be found in places inside the house with household chemicals as well as fertilizers. When exposed to radon, it increases the risk of lung cancer and lung cancer from radon is even higher for smokers.
Other environment triggers can be air pollution and asbestos. Air pollution is capable of triggering lung cancer with the amount of carbon dioxide that is released from vehicles on the road. Asbestos can trigger this type of cancer for people who work in the construction and chemical industries. This is because exposure to substances in the workforce such as chromium, nickel, soot, arsenic, tar and asbestos trigger a risk of lung cancer. Lung cancer is hereditary as well.
Some symptoms of lung cancer are a bit difficult to identify at first because it is difficult to tell if you have lung cancer in the early stages. But when it is identified in the early stage, it is most identifiable.These symptoms can range from a cough that gets worse or doesn’t go away, constant chest pain, breathing trouble, a hoarse voice, coughing up blood, frequent lung infections (pneumonia), weight loss with no cause or even feeling extremely tired all the time.
Lung cancer is a lot more complicated than benign or malignant tumors now as new research studies prove that there are now different types of lung cancer, too. The two most common types out there right now are small cell as well as non-small cell cancer. Small cell cancer is a lot more closely linked to smoking and even second-hand smoke. This tumor type happens to be found in 13% of lung cancer patients and as its name suggests, the cells that make this up are relatively small in size. These can also divide and multiply very quickly in order to form large tumors. This is why small cell lung cancer is so dangerous because of its size and speed which makes them so dangerous.
The other type of common lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer is the complete opposite of the one discussed above. Non-small cell lung cancer multiplies and spreads a lot slower than small cell lung cancer. This type is also approximately 87% of lung cancer diagnoses as well. Another rare type of lung cancer is known as carcinoid cancer. This is a neuroendocrine tumor which is a slow growing tumor that is found mostly in the gastrointestinal system but it can also appear in lungs as well. These tumors can also originate from hormone-producing cells and elevated levels of these substances can result in carcinoid syndrome.
Doctors can diagnose lung cancer through three different ways. These are imaging tests, biopsies and laboratory tests. Imaging tests are where these scans show what the tumor looks like and they even help determine whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Biopsies are done in order to give more information about the appearance and the size of the tumor. Laboratory tests are able to determine whether or not a patient has lung cancer as well as the extent of the disease. This is how doctors detect and diagnose lung cancer.
Some forms of treatment for lung cancer are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Surgery is generally performed during the removal of the tumor. About 10% to 35% of lung cancers are able to be removed surgically, but removal doesn’t always result in a cure. Radiation treatment is when it uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill off dividing cells. Last but not least, chemotherapy refers to the drugs that stop the growth of cancer cells by killing them or preventing them from dividing.
All in all, the best way to prevent and know about the disease is to detect the lung cancer early in order to survive it. However, this is not the case usually as early detection is very uncommon and 79% of lung cancers are diagnosed once the tumor has spread. There are cancer institutes and research centers that are currently funding research in order to develop these methods to detect lung cancer at its earliest stage.