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Living with Lung Cancer

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Possible causes

Family history and genetics

Your family tree can be a powerful tool in determining your risk of developing any form of cancer. If your sibling, relative or parent has lung cancer, you may want to get more frequent screenings, as recommended by your physician.

Harmful chemicals such as asbestos

Although no longer commonly used, asbestos was once a common insulation and construction material; it can still be found in some very old buildings. Other materials, including nickel, arsenic and chromium, can also increase your risk.

Radon gas

Radon gas occurs when uranium breaks down. The gas can accumulate in any poorly ventilated structure. It may be worth purchasing a testing kit to find out if your home contains harmful amounts.

Smoking

The majority of cases of lung cancer are in some way tied to smoking. The more cigarettes you smoke each day and the more years you continue to smoke, the more likely you are to get lung cancer. Quitting at any time will cut your risk and make a positive difference.

Secondhand or thirdhand smoke

Just because you don’t smoke does not mean you are immune to the toxic chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Breathing in someone else’s cigarette smoke or even inhaling the toxins that cling to smoke-tainted furniture will increase your risk.

Types of treatment

As with many other types of cancer, lung cancer is typically treated through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or some combination of the three. In some cases of early stage lung cancer, surgeons may be forced to remove the entire lobe of a lung (lobectomy) or even an entire lung (pneumonectomy) after having completed a full evaluation of lung function. These procedures carry a significant risk and may result in difficulty breathing. Over time, the remaining lung tissue will grow larger in order to compensate for what was taken away.

In addition, there are several types of target drug therapies designed to combat lung cancer. Bevacizumab (Avastin), Erlotinib (Tarceva) and Crizotinib (Xalkori) all work by honing in on any abnormalities present in cancerous cells. All of these are relatively new treatments compared to more traditional options. It is also possible to register for clinical trials. Although success is never guaranteed, as it depends on cancer cell and gene mutation type, patients can sometimes have access to experimental treatments that are not yet widely available.

Lifestyle changes

A healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as regular exercise can reduce your risk of many health conditions, including lung cancer. After diagnosis, you may find regular strenuous exercise difficult, but should make a point of eating as best you can to help your body get through the treatment. It should go without saying that if you smoke, you should quit. Many people suffering from lung cancer struggle with shortness of breath during their illness, a symptom that smoking will dramatically worsen. If you are having difficulty breathing, slow down, try to relax and focus your energy on the task at hand.

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References.

  1. Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions – Lung cancer. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lung-cancer/basics/definition/con-20025531. Accessed on May 12, 2015.

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