Lung cancer is a type of cancer that originates in cells that form tissues of an individual’s lungs or organs responsible for oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange in the body. Lung cancer leads the United States in most cancer precipitated fatalities, claiming more lives than prostate, ovarian, colon, and breast cancers combined. The most prevalent causes of lung cancer are cigarette smoking and prolonged secondhand smoke exposure. Chemicals in the smoke cause repeated and compounded cellular damage that eventually mutates the DNA to the point of malignancy. Individuals who do not smoke can also get lung cancer, but causes of such cases are unclear. Symptoms of lung cancer include shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, bone pain, hoarseness, coughing blood, and a persistent cough. A lung cancer diagnosis is made using x-ray images, CT scans, MRIs, sputum cytology, and a lung tissue biopsy.
Depending on individual circumstances, several options are available for lung cancer treatment.
Radiation therapy is a method that can be used to treat lung cancer that uses concentrated beams or radioactive materials to destroy cancerous cells or stop them from growing. The most common form of radiation therapy used for lung cancer patients is referred to as external beam radiation. External beam radiation uses a large machine that aims the high energy beams at the skin above the local area where the cancerous tissue is located to minimize damage to healthy surrounding tissues. Another form of radiation often used to treat lung cancer is referred to as brachytherapy. Brachytherapy is a form of internal radiation therapy where a small quantity of radioactive material is placed into the patient’s airway in close proximity to the cancerous tissue. The pellets or seeds containing the radioactive substance are typically removed from the patient’s body after a set amount of time to allow the radiation to do damage and kill the malignant tumor cells.
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