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General Health : Diseases Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Lung Cancer: What you need to know
By Sue Mueller
Nov 9, 2008 - 8:29:14 AM

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Lung Cancer What you need to know


What is lung cancer?


Lung cancer is an uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. The cancer can spread to other tissue or organs. There are two main types of lung cancer, small cell lung carcinoma and non-small cell lung carcinoma. Treatment depends on the type. Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is sometimes treated with surgery, while small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) usually is often better treated with chemotherapy and radiation.


What are the symptoms for lung cancer?


The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, coughing (including coughing up blood), and weight loss.   Symptoms can also include wheezing, chest pain or pain in the abdomen, fatigue and loss of appetite.


What are the causes for lung cancer?


Smoking and second-hand smoking are the major risk factor for lung cancer.   Other factors include genetic factors, radon gas, asbestos, and air pollution among others.


How is lung cancer diagnosed?


Lung cancer may be seen on chest x-ray and computed tomography or CT scan. But only biopsy confirms the diagnosis.


What is the prognosis for lung cancer?


The prognosis for lung cancer is poor!

The prognosis for non-small cell lung cancer depends on a wide range of factors including presence or absence of pulmonary symptoms, tumor size, cell type, stage and metastases to multiple lymph nodes, and vascular invasion.   For this sort of lung cancer, prognosis is generally poor.   The best rate of five-year survival is 67 percent for those who have stage IA disease and the worst survival rate is one percent for those with stage IV NSCLC.


Prognostic factors in small-cell lung cancer on the other hand include performance status, gender, stage, and involvement of the central nervous system or liver at the time of diagnosis. For this type of lung cancer, the prognosis is also poor.   The overall 5-year survival rate is merely 5 percent.


At what age is lung cancer diagnosed most often?


According to the National Cancer Institute, the median age of incidence of lung cancer is 70 years, and the median age of death by lung cancer is 71 years.


How is lung cancer treated?


Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.


How many people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year?


An estimated 215,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer and 162,000 will die of this disease in 2008, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The disease is the single largest cause of death from cancer responsible for about 30 percent of cancer deaths among men and women in the United States.


How could I reduce risk of developing lung cancer?


In addition to avoidance of the risk factors, certain lifestyle parameters including diet may affect the risk of lung cancer. Physical activity, diet high in fruits and vegetables, high in nutrients like vitamin C, E, or selenium may reduce the risk.   High exposure to sunlight and or taking vitamin D supplements, getting enough sleep, avoiding stress and fatigue and environmental pollutants may also help.

Below are a summary of a report on a new trial on Tarceva and lung cancer

OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc. and its partners issued a press release on Friday saying a new study showed the drug Tarceva effectively slows the progression of lung cancer when given immediately after chemotherapy.

The study called Saturn will be presented to an upcoming medical conference and later will also be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration to get the drug approved for use in patients with earlier stages of lung cancer.

Tarceva as a single agent treatment was already approved in 2004 in the US to treat patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of lung cancer in the U.S in cases other treatments have failed to stop progression of the disease. 

An early trial showed the median survival was 6.7 months in the Tarceva group compared with 4.7 months in the placebo group, according to a government document.  But the results of the new trial has not yet been released.

Traceva failed to deliver much of additional benefit in other trials when used along with Avastin, a cancer drug made by Genentech.

The new trial by Roche involved 889 patients enrolled at 160 sites worldwide, according to a press release issued on Nov 6 by OSI and Genentech. 

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