Of the 170,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed annually, close to 17,000 cases develop in non-smokers. The cases that do not result from smoking usually develop from natural causes or second hand smoke inhalation.
The increase in lung cancer cases over the years in non-smoking patients has led to a variety of states banning smoking in public establishments such as restaurants, bars, casinos and stadiums.
The diagnosis of lung cancer can come about in a couple of different ways. If a patient is suffering from a variety of different symptoms associated with lung cancer, then a physician will usually recommend a series of tests designed to detect anomalous tissues in the body.
These tests typically include computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), blood tests, and chest x-rays. In asymptomatic lung cancer cases, the tumor is usually discovered incidentally during an unrelated examination. A combination of these tests can be used to diagnose lung cancer, but in some cases it might take only one of these tests to help a doctor make an accurate diagnosis.
Stages of Lung Cancer
Staging of lung cancer, as with any other type of cancer, details how much the tumor has developed at its area of inception and how much it has spread throughout the body. The stages of lung cancer are determined by whether or not the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes, other tissue or other organs within the body.
The staging process is important in deciding how the lung cancer should be treated and what the prognosis of a given patient will wind up being. If the staging level is high, the patient’s prognosis will not be good but if the staging level is low, then the patient’s prognosis will be better.
The staging of a lung cancer is done by doctors performing a variety of tests within the body and on the tumor itself. The tests include blood chemistry, x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans and bone scans. If the blood chemistry tests are abnormal then there is a high possibility that the cancer has spread to the bone and/or the liver. Radiological procedures help to determine the size of the cancerous tumor and if it has spread to any other organs.
There are four stages of lung cancer as defined by the severity of the cancer. The stages are I, II, III and IV. Stage I is the lowest stage of lung cancer. It means that the cancer is only confined to the lung or lungs and has not spread to any other tissues or organs within the body. It also means that the cancer has not spread to the bones or nerves of the body.
- Stage I: This stage of tumor is localized to the lung. If a patient is diagnosed with Stage I lung cancer, their prognosis will be better than a patient with Stage IV lung cancer because it is easier to treat an early-stage lung cancer with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- Stages II & III: Stage II and Stage III lung cancers are confined to the chest. Tumors associated with Stage III lung cancer are larger and more invasive than Stage II’s tumors. The smaller the tumor, the more easily it can be treated with chemo and radiation therapies.
- Stage IV: Stage IV lung cancer, as with all other Stage IV cancers, is the worst stage of cancer. In Stage IV lung cancer, the tumor has spread to other parts of the body. Parts of the body in danger are the brain, the bones, the nerves, the spleen, the pancreas, the colon, the liver, the stomach, the diaphragm and the gall bladder. If the cancer spreads to these areas, the patient’s prognosis significantly worsens.
Once a lung cancer has been diagnosed and staged, the doctor and patient will discuss the different treatments and therapies available to treat and manage the disease.