Wikipedia defines lung cancer or lung carcinoma as “a malignant lung tumor characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung”.  Common symptoms are coughing, wheezing, weight loss, shortness of breath and chest pains, weakness or fever, or difficulty swallowing.  Other symptoms may include swollen lymph nodes above the collarbone, a mass in the abdomen, weak breathing, abnormal sounds in the lungs, dullness when the chest is tapped, abnormalities of the pupils, weakness or swollen veins in one of the arms, changes in the fingernails, and high blood levels of certain hormones or substances such as calcium. (1)  Lung cancer can be diagnosed thru tests of mucus or lung fluid, a bronchoscopy, CT scan, or chest x-ray.  A medical team including an oncologist, radiologist, surgeon and pulmonologist review the patient’s records before completing a diagnosis and recommending treatment. (2)
The majority (85%) of cases of lung cancer are due to long term tobacco smoking.  The remaining are caused by second-hand smoke, genetic factors, and exposure to radon gas, asbestos, or other forms of air pollution. (2)  Worldwide, lung cancer is the most common cancer among men and the third highest among women.  The population segment most likely to develop lung cancer is people over age 50 who have a history of smoking.  Cancer develops following genetic damage to DNA and epigenetic changes.  These changes affect normal function of the cell.
Treatment depends on the cancer’s cell type, how far it has spread and the patient’s status.  Treatment’s include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and palliative care.  Treatments may be combined, depending on the type of cancer, the degree to which it has metastasized (spread) and the patient’s condition.(3) The practice of targeted therapy is growing.  Other treatments include supportive therapies such as chiropractic, pain management, stress management and nutritional therapy.  Additional treatments are supplemental oxygen, and medications to help you feel more comfortable.  Also, try to relax by listening to music, imagining your favorite vacation spot, meditating or praying.  Find a comfortable position and focus on your breath by concentrating on moving the muscles of your diaphragm.  Breathe through pursed lips and pace your breaths with your activity.  If you are short of breath, you may tire easily.  Save your energy for what needs to be done. (3)
In the United States, the five year survival rate for lung cancer is 16.8%.  In England, between 2005 and 2009, the survival rate was less then 10%.  Outcomes are generally worse in the developing world and the survival rate falls as the disease becomes more advanced.  English data suggests that survival rate is about 70% when patients are diagnosed early but falls to 14% in more advanced stages of the disease.(4).   A recent study showed that in patients 65 and older who had lung cancer surgery, the median survival rate for early stage lung cancer was 6.7 years, nearly 2 years longer than the benchmark 5 year survival rate.  The study, released by Robert Preidt titled “Lung Cancer Surgery Worthwhile for Older Patients” was published May 5, 2016 in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.
You will need to be prepared before your first appointment with a cancer specialist.  The following is a list of what you need to do:
•        Be sure to ask if there is anything to do in advance, such as dietary restrictions.
•        Write down any symptoms you are experiencing, when they began, what makes them better or worse.  Your doctor will also want to know when you first began experiencing symptoms, how severe they are, and if you have been diagnosed with COPD or emphysema.
•        Write down personal information such as major stresses or life changes.
•        Make a list of all medications including vitamins and supplements.
•        Gather all medical records, even those of other specialists you have seen.  Try to obtain each medical file.
•       Take a family member or friend along.  That person may remember things in the conversation that you don’t.
•       Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor:
•       What type of lung cancer do I have?
•       May I see the x-ray or CT scan?
•       What is causing my symptoms?  Is there any way to relieve my symptoms?
•       What is the stage of my cancer?
•       Will I need more tests?
•      Has my cancer spread?
•      What are my treatment options? And will any of these options cure my cancer?  Also, is there any one treatment you would recommend?
•      What are the potential side effects?
•      What if I don’t want treatment?
•      Can I enroll in a clinical trial?
•     What will this treatment cost and will my insurance cover it?
•     Are there brochures, websites or other sources of material that you recommend?(5)
Advances in lung cancer research include immunotherapy which uses the body’s own immune system to detect and fight cancer cells.  Targeted therapy blocks the cancer’s growth by stopping cancer      cells from dividing or by killing them.  This treatment is in the form of a pill which the patient can take at home rather than going for chemotherapy treatments.  Improvements in the area of diagnostics also provide a faster and more accurate diagnosis. A new drug called Keytruda  was halted because it was so effective that researchers want to offer it to all the patients in the study according to the drug maker, Merck.(6))  Finally, A new smartphone app has been developed which may help lung cancer patients live longer and better by monitoring their symptoms and alerting doctors to potential problems.  The app, Moovcare, is still in prototype but expected to go on the market in January 2017.(6)
We at Home Assist Senior Care have prepared this to help those who have or know someone who has lung cancer.  Remember, there is hope, especially with early diagnosis.  We recommend that should you have any sympt0ms of this disease you see your doctor immediately.  Also, if you have a family member who is fighting this battle, remember that we can help with companion care or personal care in many ways.  Call us so we can discuss a care plan targeted at the needs of your family member.
1. P.1
2., p. 21…
3. story_158689.html  Preidt, Robert, Lung Cancer Surgery Worthwhile for Older Patients, The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, May 5, 2016, p.18…
4. p.21, Predit, Robert, Middle-Aged More Often Diagnosed With Late-Stage Lung Cancer
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