Lung cancer

The exact cause of lung cancer (lung carcinoma) is unknown.

Overview

The exact cause of lung cancer (lung carcinoma) is unknown. Smoking is the biggest risk factor. To stop smoking provides the best chance of preventing lung cancer. Typical symptoms include chronic coughing (maybe with blood in the sputum), recurring short colds and shortness of breath. A visit to the doctor should not be postponed.

Symptoms

  • No specific early symptoms
    • Usually discovered by coincidence and often too late
  • Symptoms depend on size, location and spread of the tumour
    • Bronchitis, chronic infection with productive coughing
    • Pneumonia (specifically if recurring and incompletely healed)
    • Chest pain
    • Persistent hoarseness
    • Shortness of breath, bluish or bluish-grey discolouration of lips, face, fingers
  • General signs of advanced illness
    • Coughing up blood
    • Fever
    • Weight loss
    • Night sweats
    • Physical deterioration
    • Metastases: highly diverse symptoms, depending on the affected organ
  • Hormone production by cancer cells

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Smoking of cigarettes (single biggest risk factor)
    • How long and how many cigarettes a day are smoked determine the risk of cancer
    • Passive smoking (risk is two times higher)
    • Non-smokers can also get lung cancer
  • Work-related contact: coal dust, arsenic, chrome, nickel, petrol fumes, uranium
  • Air pollution: industry, traffic, fine dust
  • Inhalation of asbestos dust (asbestosis)
  • Genetic predisposition (increased risk: if parents already have/had the disease, risk is 2-3 times higher)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Listening to the lungs
  • X-ray of chest cavity
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • Bronchoscopy
    • Removal of cells and/or tissue samples
  • Search for cancer cells in cough mucus
  • Pulmonary function test
Possible therapies
  • Operation
    • Only possible and sensible in approx. 30% of cases
    • Removal of part of the lung (lobectomy)
    • Removal of an entire lung (pneumonectomy)
  • Chemotherapy (on its own or in combination with surgery)
  • Radiation therapy (if surgery is impossible)
  • Palliative treatment methods (to improve shortness of breath, relieve pain, etc.)
  • Generally speaking, however, the chance for recovery is small, and only if the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage

What can I do myself?

  • Don’t smoke
  • Stop smoking
    • Always worthwhile (after 15 to 20 years of not smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer is on a par with that a non-smoker)
    • Start a stop smoking programme
    • Nicotine withdrawal should be well prepared and supported by a doctor (see stop smoking)
  • Suitable protective measures, e.g. at the workplace (face mask, etc.)
  • Physical activity
    • However: don't exercise outside if the air is very polluted
  • Go to the doctor without delay if you suspect lung cancer

When to see a doctor?

Further information

Krebsliga Schweiz (Swiss Cancer League)
www.krebsliga.ch

Swiss Lung Association (Lungenliga Schweiz)
www.lungenliga.ch

Synonyms

lung cancer, bronchial carcinoma, lung carcinoma, non-small cell lung carcinoma, small cell lung carcinoma

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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