Lung cancer: Symptoms, signs and stages

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Lung cancer begins when abnormal cells uncontrolled growth and multiply in one or both lungs. The abnormal cells fail to perform the functions of normal lung cells and do not develop to form healthy lung tissue. With time, the abnormal cells begin to develop tumors that hinder the functioning of the lung.

According to Cancer, the mortality due to the use of tobacco in India is estimated at upwards of approximately 3500 persons every day. Usage of Tobacco (smoked and smokeless) accounted for approximately 3,17,928 deaths in men and women in the year 2018. This makes Lung Cancer the most common reason for cancer-related deaths among men and the second most common reason of cancer-related deaths in women after breast cancer. A huge 85% percentage of lung cancer cases are reported due to long-term tobacco use and cigarette smoking. The other 10 to 15% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed in people who have never smoked. Genetic factors and exposure to radon gas, asbestos, passive smoke or other forms of air pollution were often responsible for these cases.

Causes of Lung Cancer

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. This includes both active smokers and people who are exposed to passive smoking (being exposed to smoke). Lung cancer can also develop in nonsmokers.

 Types of Lung Cancer:  

Lung cancer can be characterized into two major types based on the appearance of lung cancer cells.

  1. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

NSCLC accounts for about 85% of lung cancers. It may be classified as:

  1. Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)

SCLC accounts for about 15% of lung cancers. Cancer usually starts in the middle of the lung and tends to spread more rapidly than NSCLC.

Symptoms of lung cancer may include the following

Lung cancer, in the early stages, does not show any signs and symptoms. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically progress only when the disease is at an advanced stage.

  • Persistent coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bone pain
  • Headache

An individual may also have symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, hoarse voice, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, enlarged fingers (finger clubbing) and abdominal or joint pain. It may not necessarily mean you have lung cancer if you have even one of these symptoms. There are other conditions that can cause these symptoms, or smoking may cause them. However, if such symptoms are prevalent, it is recommended to see a doctor right away.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer Include:

  • Smoking is the most common risk of lung cancer. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke every day and the number of years you have been smoking/smoked. Quitting smoking at any age has the chance of less risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Exposure to smoke by being around a person who smokes. This is called passive smoking.
  • Exposure to radon gas.
  • Exposure to carcinogens like asbestos, arsenic, chromium, and nickel.
  • Genetic factors or family history of lung cancer where a parent or a sibling had the disease.
  • Personal history – In case of another lung disease (e.g., lung fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary tuberculosis, emphysema) may increase the risk of lung tumors.
  • Older age – People over the age of 60 are most likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer, but younger people can also be affected.


The following tests are used to diagnose lung cancer:

  • X-ray images
  • CT scans
  • Sputum cytology
  • Lung tissue samples (biopsy).


  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Test your home for radon
  • Avoid carcinogens at work
  • Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Engage in regular exercise


Treatment is given based on various factors, such as the patients’ overall health, the type and stage of cancer, and their personal preferences.


Surgery removes the affected tissue area that containing the cancerous tumor along with a portion of the surrounding healthy tissue.

Types of surgical procedures

  • Wedge resection
  • Lobectomy
  • Pneumonectomy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted drug therapy

An illness like cancer can have an impact on all aspects of your life. Cancer diagnosed person can probably experience plenty of emotions like fear, sadness, anxiety, anger and frustration. These reactions are common in people living with the disease. Cancer can also create practical and financial challenges. There are some people who experience a return of lung cancer after treatment, known as a recurrence. It is more likely for lung cancer to recur in the first five years after diagnosis. If cancer returns, the appropriate treatment options will depend on the factors like the type of lung cancer, location of the recurred cancer, and the stage of cancer.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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