By: Kelsey Davis
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer can occur in one or both lungs. Abnormal cells grow uncontrollably, damaging healthy tissue. As these abnormal cells continue to grow, they can form tumors or interfere with your ability to breathe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of lung cancer is caused by tobacco use. However, non-smokers can still develop lung cancer through secondhand smoke, radon, air pollution, asbestos, diesel exhaust, or other chemicals.
Lung Cancer Types and Stages
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) are the two main types of lung cancer. SCLC spreads to other parts of the body much quicker than NSCLC. However, SCLC only accounts for 15%-20% of all lung cancers. NSCLC and SCLC can be difficult to detect in their early stages (Stage I and II). These stages can be defined as:
- Stage I: Cancer has developed only in the lung and has not spread to any lymph nodes
- Stage II: Cancer has developed in the lung(s) and nearby lymph nodes
- Stage III: Cancer has developed in the lung(s), nearby lymph nodes, and middle of the chest
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread to both lungs, to the fluid surrounding the lungs, and sometimes the liver or other organs
Lung Cancer Symptoms
It’s generally difficult to notice symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer. Plus, basic symptoms of lung cancer are easily associated with other less-threatening conditions. Coughing, wheezing, fatigue, etc. can be associated with many other illnesses and diseases. However, there are more specific symptoms that you should be aware of. If you are coughing or wheezing and have mucus with blood in it or related respiratory issues like bronchitis or pneumonia, you should see a doctor immediately. Other symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest or ribs
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Chest pain
- Swelling of neck
- Weight loss
- Sporadic fever
- Trouble swallowing
Lung Cancer Treatments
Depending on the cancer type and stage, there are different treatments that can take place. If the cancer is localized and did not spread to the lymph nodes, surgery is typically the treatment to remove the tumor. However, if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, then radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and sometimes surgery can be used. You and your doctor will determine the best treatment for you based on the stage of cancer, where it is located, the side effects of the treatment, your age, and general health.
Importance of Medicare
Visiting your doctor regularly is important for not only your overall health but for spotting any potential tumors or cancers as quickly as possible. Medicare is extremely important because most people who are diagnosed with lung cancer are age 65 or older. Our partners at Medicare Plan Finder can help you get enrolled in the best coverage for your needs and budget. To request a free, no-obligation appointment, fill out this form or call them directly at 833-438-3676.