Lung cancer, commonly referred to as bronchogenic carcinoma, is a disease of the lung tissue cells. Newly occurring mutations in a cell cause uncontrolled growth that results in a tumor. Various environmental influences such as the smoking of tobacco or the inhalation of soot, fine dust, and exhaust fumes constantly attempt to damage the DNA of the cells. However, certain genes can usually detect and neutralize these toxins before they are able to do much harm. However, in many people, the genes responsible for such detox-functions are hindered by genetic variations. If people with limited detoxification are exposed to these risk factors, they can develop cancer.
The most significant risk factor is the smoking of tobacco (for genetically pre dispositioned persons as well as for persons with optimally functioning detoxification genes). It is responsible for around 85% of all lung cancer cases. In addition to active smoking, passive smoking accounts for about 3-5% of lung cancer cases. After smoking, the radioactive radon gas that can rise from the ground and collect in mines or old cellars is the main risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Thus, adequate ventilation of basements is an effective method of prevention.
Other occupational risk factors include the inhalation of exhaust fumes, particulate matter from construction, mining or metalworking industries. In particular, dust consisting of quartz, arsenic, chromium and nickel compounds, as well as asbestos, are particularly problematic.
Early detection is crucial
Lung cancer usually only forms noticeable symptoms at a very late stage. At this stage, the cancer is often no longer treatable. People with the highest chance of survival are those who, either by accident or specific preventive examinations, recognize and treat cancer during its asymptomatic stage. For example, a screening study showed that the 5-year survival rate of symptomatic sufferers is only 14%. By contrast, the 5-year survival rate of individuals, in whom the disease was identified in the adenomasymptomatic stage by means of screening is approximately 80%.
Symptoms in the later stage
Symptoms of lung cancer usually occur relatively late and should immediately be examined by a specialist. Furthermore, symptoms are often very nonspecific and can be triggered by other diseases. Symptoms include:
- A cough that lasts longer than three weeks
- Coughing of blood
- Fatigue and reduced performance
- Difficulty swallowing or hoarseness
- Bone pain
- Lymph node swelling in the neck region
- Permanent coughing up of mucus
- Unclear fevers
- Constant shortness of breath
- Chest pain