Lung cancer awareness

Author - Dr. Arun Karanwal 


What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs. Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. There are two major types of blood cancer (based on cells detected on biopsy from lung tumors)- 

  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer. It accounts for over 80% of lung cancer cases. Common types include adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. 
  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) grows more quickly and is harder to treat than NSCLC. It is present in 10-15% of new diagnoses of lung cancer.

Other less common types include lymphoma and sarcomas.

How common is lung cancer?

Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Developed nations. In some parts of the world, it is now the most common cancer in men. Lung cancer mainly occurs in older people, however, in Asian population many new patients are getting diagnosed in the 4th to 5th decade of life also. 

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

Risk factors for lung cancer

Exposure to tobacco smoke- While there are many factors that can increase your risk of lung cancer, smoking any kind of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars or pipes is the biggest single risk factor. Experts estimate that 80% of lung cancer deaths are smoking-related. The longer you smoke and the more packs a day you smoke, the greater your risk.

Quitting at any age can significantly lower your risk of developing lung cancer

Other risk factors include:

  • Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.
  • Exposure to harmful substances, like air pollution, radon, asbestos, uranium, diesel exhaust, silica, coal products and others.
  • Having previous radiation treatments to your chest
  • Having a family history of lung cancer.


E-cigarettes or Vaping – is it safer than tobacco smoke??

  • Both smoking and vaping involve heating a substance and inhaling the resulting fumes. Research so far shows that legal e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking.
  • For people who smoke, legal e-cigarettes are an option to help them stop.
  • E-cigarettes are not risk-free. We don't yet know their long-term effects, so children and people who have never smoked shouldn't use them


E-liquid concoctions usually include some mix of flavorings, aromatic additives, and nicotine or THC (the chemical in marijuana that causes psychological effects), dissolved in an oily liquid base. It is believed that some of the vaporized elements of the oil are getting deep down into the lungs and causing an inflammatory response. Most important such chemicals include Vitamin E, Diacetyl, Formaldehyde, and Acrolein.  Lung diseases possibly related to exposure to such chemicals include Popcorn lung, Lipoid pneumonia, and primary spontaneous pneumothorax.

Even passive exposure to vaping fumes can be harmful. In conclusion, vaping causes less exposure to tobacco smoke, however, it is associated with exposure to other chemicals which are also considered harmful to our lungs. At present, the best practice will be to avoid vaping. 


How to prevent lung cancer??

Some of the above-mentioned risk factors (smoking, vaping, radon) can be controlled or reduced in a person's life, leading to a reduction in the chances of getting this cancer. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet along with regular moderate levels of exercise are other preventive steps. Other risk factors like family history, and environmental pollution can not be controlled at present.


Can you get lung cancer if you don’t smoke?

While smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, up to 20% of people diagnosed have never smoked



  • Lung cancer typically doesn't cause signs and symptoms in its earliest stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur when the disease is advanced.
  • Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:
  • A new cough that doesn't go away
  • Coughing up blood, even a small amount
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Bone pain
  • Headache


How can lung cancer be diagnosed??

If a person presents with suspected lung cancer symptoms, then he will be guided for tests like blood tests, chest x-ray, CT scans, PET CT scans, bronchoscopy, and biopsy for confirming the diagnosis. New types of tests like molecular mutation analysis are required in almost all patients for further treatment decisions. These tests are generally done as a multiple-step process and not all tests are needed in each and every patient. 


How is lung cancer treated?

Treatments for lung cancer are given to get rid of cancer (to cure) or to slow down its growth. Some therapies are also used to reduce symptoms and relieve pain. Each persons treatment will depend on the type of lung cancer, its stage, and the general fitness of that person. Lung cancer treatments include surgery, radiofrequency ablation, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy.


it is generally feasible in small tumors which have not spread to other areas.

Radiofrequency ablation

RFA uses high-energy radio waves to heat and destroy cancer cells.

Radiation therapy

Radiation uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It can be used by itself or to help make surgery more effective. Radiation can also be used as palliative care, to shrink tumors and relieve pain.


Chemotherapy is often a combination of multiple medications designed to stop cancer cells from growing. It can be given before or after surgery or in combination with other types of medication, like immunotherapy. Chemotherapy for lung cancer is usually given through an IV.

Targeted drug therapy

In some people with NSCLC, lung cancer cells have specific changes (mutations) that help the cancer grow. Special drugs target these mutations to try to slow down or destroy cancer cells. 


Cancer has ways to hide from the immune system to keep from being destroyed. Immunotherapy reveals cancer cells to your immune system so your own body can fight cancer.

Palliative care

Some lung cancer treatments are used to relieve symptoms like pain and difficulty breathing. 


Can lung cancer be detected in its early stages??

If lung cancer is found at an earlier stage, when it is small and before it has spread, it is more likely to be treated successfully. This can be possible with lung cancer screening. Lung cancer screening is recommended for certain people who smoke or used to smoke, but who don't have any signs or symptoms. It can be done with once a year Low dose CT scan, which can detect small nodules or other early possible signs.


If you are suffering from any of the symptoms, please book your appointment with our Specialist Oncologist Dr. Arun Karanwal at PRIME Hospital

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