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Lung Cancer and Texas Oncology: I Can Fight

Being diagnosed with lung cancer creates feelings of fear, uncertainty and anxiety. A powerful strategy for managing this initial wave of worry is to become better informed about lung cancer and all possible cancer treatments in Texas. At Texas Oncology, we believe that arming yourself with knowledge about the effects of lung cancer and options for lung cancer treatment is a wise way to prepare for the challenges and choices this illness brings. Texas Oncology provides this guide as a first step in self-education about lung cancer and lung cancer treatment.

What is Lung Cancer?

Cancer is a disruption in the body’s ability to keep the growth of certain cells in check. Lung cancer occurs when specific cells in the lungs, usually in the cells lining air passages, have become damaged or malformed and begin to grow at an inappropriately fast pace.

What Causes Lung Cancer?

While the exact causes of lung cancer are not clear, the vast majority of lung cancer cases are thought to result from exposure to tobacco smoke. Researchers have identified a number of risk factors, including the following:

  • Smoking—More than 80% of lung cancers are believed to result from smoking or passive exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Radon—Radon is the natural gas produced by the breakdown of uranium. A possible risk for cancer, radon may be present in some homes built on soil with natural uranium deposits.
  • Asbestos—Workers exposed to asbestos are about seven times more likely to die from lung cancer and about 50 to 90 times more likely than the general population to develop cancer.
  • Aging—After the age of 65, the chances of developing lung cancer sharply increase, while fewer than 3% of all cases are found in people younger than 45.
  • Heredity—Brothers, sisters and children of people who have had lung cancer are at slightly higher risk of contracting lung cancer.
  • Vitamin A—Deficiencies or overabundance of vitamin A may increase the risk of lung cancer.
  • Air Pollution—Living in polluted cities might slightly increase the chance of getting lung cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer symptoms vary from patient to patient. If the following symptoms are present, individuals are encouraged to consult their physician:

  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood or a cough that won’t go away
  • Breathing trouble, such as shortness of breath
  • Shoulder pain with numbness in some fingers
  • Frequent lung infections, such as pneumonia
  • Weight loss with no known cause

How Can Lung Cancer Be Prevented?

  • Do not smoke. Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, implicated in about nine out of 10 lung cancer cases.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke. Approximately 3,400 adult non-smokers die in the United States each year from lung cancer due to second-hand exposure to smoke.
  • Take precautions at work. Some workplaces expose people to fumes, dust and chemicals that can cause lung cancer.
  • Have your home tested for radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that cannot be seen, felt, smelled or tasted. Homes built over natural soil deposits of uranium can have high levels of indoor radon exposure, which can lead to lung cancer.

What are the Types of Lung Cancer?

Researchers have identified two broad categories of lung cancer based on the microscopic appearance of tumor cells: small cell lung cancers (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). There is also a class of lung cancers called bronchial carcinoids and cancers that affect supporting lung tissue such as smooth muscles and other parts of the lung. These account for only a small percentage of all lung cancers.

SCLC comprises about 20% of lung cancer cases and includes the most aggressive and most rapidly-growing cancers. Cases of SCLC are strongly related to cigarette smoking, with only 1% occurring in non-smokers.

NSCLC cancers are the most common, representing about 80% of all lung cancer cases. Typical NSCLC cancers include adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, large cell carcinomas and various combinations. Adenocarcinomas are seen in both smokers and nonsmokers, accounting for about 50% of NSCLC cancer cases.

Squamous cell carcinomas arise most frequently in the bronchi (in the central chest area) and account for about 30% of NSCLC cases.

What are the Treatment Options?

Lung cancer, depending on the stage, may be treated by different members of the cancer center care team: pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. Consultation with each of these specialists is encouraged where appropriate. The chance of recovery and cancer treatment options vary widely depending on the stage and type of the cancer, the patient’s symptoms and overall health and a variety of other factors.

Texas Oncology cancer centers provide cancer treatment and hope to people throughout the Southwest with cancer and blood disorders. After a diagnosis of lung cancer, our team of physicians, oncology nurses, pharmacists and technicians can help you in the fight of your life. At Texas Oncology, we use the same leading edge technologies as the top cancer centers in the nation. In addition, our support services team is committed to addressing the educational, emotional, financial and nutritional needs of our patients during their cancer treatment.

Even though most current treatments are unable to completely cure lung cancer, at Texas Oncology, we strive to discover breakthroughs and find new cancer treatments to help increase your chances of recovery. In addition, we will keep you informed about clinical trials nationwide that may be available for lung cancer patients.

We have local cancer centers throughout Texas, providing access to Texas Oncology cancer treatment in a location near you. By having immediate access to the most advanced cancer treatment, we can help you increase the odds of beating lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Facts and Statistics

  • In 2009, there will be about 219,440 new cases of lung cancer in the United States (116,090 among men and 103,350 among women).
  • In 2009, lung cancer will cause an estimated 159,000 deaths in the United States. This represents about 29 percent of all cancer-related deaths.
  • Approximately 85% of people diagnosed with lung cancer will die within five years of their initial diagnosis.
  • Lung cancer is often perceived as a man’s disease, but in fact, since 1987, more American women have died of lung cancer than breast cancer each year.
  • In Texas, approximately 24,000 adults die of smoking-attributable illnesses, such as lung cancer, annually.

Our Cancer Centers

Lung Cancer Key Terminology

  • Chemotherapy: A lung cancer treatment that damages cancerous cells, causing them to stop dividing. Chemotherapy also affects normally dividing cells in the body, such as those in the skin, digestive tract and blood. For this reason, a patient may become quite ill as a result of chemotherapy treatment.
  • Immunotherapy: A cancer treatment that is still under development, immunotherapy causes a body's immune system to react against foreign, cancerous cells.
  • Lobectomy: The lungs are divided into separate sections or "lobes." The left lung has two lobes and the right lung has three lobes. During a lobectomy a surgeon will remove an entire lobe of a patient's lung.
  • Pneumonectomy: The removal of an entire lung from the body of a cancer patient. Performed if the procedure may halt the spread of cancer.
  • Radiation Therapy: A treatment used to target cancer in specific areas of the body. Radiation therapy can be performed internally or externally and is usually used in combination with chemotherapy or surgery.
  • Systemic Treatment: Treatment to destroy or weaken cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of the body.