Living with Lung Disease: How Lung Cancer Will Affect You

Lung cancer is one of the most frightening types of lung disease, but it doesn’t mean you should give up. Many people have lived long and fulfilled lives after being diagnosed. Educate yourself on your diagnosis so that you understand exactly what is going on with your body.

There are two main types of cancer found in the lungs, SCLC (small cell lung cancers) and NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancers). Your diagnosis, treatment and prognosis will depend on which type of lung disease you have. There are individual types of cancer within these two categories, but they tend to respond the same way to the various treatment options.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Knowing the symptoms of lung cancer is important. The earlier the cancer is detected, the more likely you will need minimally invasive treatments. The prognosis is also higher when you are diagnosed early on.

Symptoms include:

- Persistent coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Pain radiating down the shoulder
- Hoarseness and wheezing

About 25% of lung cancer shows no symptoms before diagnosis. In these cases, chest x-rays and CT scans are usually where it shows up first.

Your Treatment Options

Your oncologist will give you the best treatment options for your particular situation. The type of cancer and how large it is will determine which types of treatment are most effective.

Surgery: Between 10-35% of lung cancer can be treated with surgery. In cases where the cancer is an isolated tumor, this option is usually quite successful. In some cases, the cancer may have spread, which will require more extensive surgery.

Surgery is usually accompanied by chemotherapy or radiation, depending on the type of cancer involved. In general, NSCLC responds best to surgery, as it is easy to see and remove.

After the surgery, you can expect several weeks or even a couple of months recovery time. This is due to the fact that your chest will be opened to allow surgical access to the lungs. It is a major surgery, but one with a good survival rate.

Chemotherapy: This method of treatment is usually an outpatient treatment, which means you come in to take the pills or IV and then go home again. Many patients find it more comfortable to stay in their own homes.

For SCLC, chemotherapy is an excellent choice for treatment. It will affect the entire body, so it works well for cancer that does not form localized tumors. It will kill cancer cells throughout the body and drastically increases survival over non-treatment.

When it comes to NSCLC, chemotherapy is used more frequently to prolong life. This is helpful when the patient needs to build up their health to be better equipped for surgery or another treatment.

Radiation: Using targeted radiation to kill off cancer cells, radiation treatment tends to work well for both types of cancer. there are two ways to administer it. You may have a machine aim radiation at a specific area affected by the cancer or you may have a radioactive pellet inserted into the affected area to deliver continuous radiation to the cancer.

Radiation treatment is not a cure. However, it does shrink the cancer and stop its growth. This allows for long term remission in many cases. It may also be used in conjunction with surgery to make it simpler to remove the cancer completely.

Lung Cancer Prognosis

The prognosis for this lung disease varies greatly. It depends on quite a few factors. The size of the cancer when it was detected, the rate of growth and the success of the treatments are all factors. However, your overall health can also affect the outcome. Those who live a healthy lifestyle have a greater chance of beating the cancer completely.

The Importance of Family and Friends

None of the treatments for this type of lung disease is enjoyable and many will give you some challenging times. For this reason, it’s recommended that you have a good support group around you. Family and friends can make your life much easier as you go through the diagnosis and treatments for cancer.

You will spend some time in the hospital, particularly if you opt for surgery. It can be helpful to have someone available to handle things like paying the bills and feeding pets, etc. until you are able to return home. Friends can also help keep your spirits up.

If you catch the lung disease early enough, minimal treatments will be necessary and you should be able to continue your life after treatment. In more complicated scenarios, you’ll need to plan for more time to heal and surgery may be required. All of this requires time and support.

Living with lung cancer can be a challenge, but when you are surrounded by support groups, you will find that it is possible to keep your spirits up.

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