Lung cancer originates when a set of cancer cells proliferates and produces a local compromise in the space occupied. These cells have a tendency to spread (metastasis) to other organs and, as their biological behaviour is completely abnormal, they produce atypical neurological, dermatological or endocrine signs. There are different types of lung cancer from a cell classification perspective, which require different treatments and prognosis. Lung cancer is always a serious illness, with an overall low survival rate estimated at 20% of patients after 5 years.
Research into this disease in the last few years has led to new treatment strategies, which in some cases cause the disease to go into remission for long periods.
90% of people will have symptoms caused by local tumour growth, including non-specific respiratory symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing, or in some cases coughing up blood.
There can also be a wide variety of symptoms: pleural effusion (presence of fluid in the pleura), involvement of the nerve roots that pass through the chest, skin disorders and endocrine disorders because the tumour may produce products that are similar to normal hormones.
How is affected by the condition?
It affects both sexes, with a predominance in males. Incidence of lung cancer in women has shown a very worrying increase in the last few years. Although it can be seen in people who have never smoked, a history of smoking is almost always found.
A suspected diagnosis will be made in the clinic and imaging tests will then be conducted in the following order: Chest x-ray, CAT, PET-CT to confirm the suspicion. The types of cells involved will then be ascertained through pleural tap or bronchoscopy. Final diagnosis is always reached by confirming the presence of tumour cells, which is done by the Pathological Anatomy Department.
Lung cancer treatment must be personalised. Surgery can play its role, both in diagnosis and in treatment, as well as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and the use of biological drugs aimed at blocking certain cell receptor, which are different in each patient.
The typical tests for diagnosis are chest radiography, CAT, PET-CT, pleural aspiration/tap and bronchoscopy.
In order to prevent lung cancer, completely abstaining from tobacco use is essential. Exposure to certain environmental toxins specific to some working environments, such as arsenic, asbestos and chrome should also be avoided.
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