Lung Cancer: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment | Gleneagles Hospital

Lung Cancer: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Lung cancer is a kind of cancer that develops in the lungs. It occurs when the usual processes of cell division and growth become abnormal, leading to the cells growing into a mass or tumour. While some people develop lung cancer without any known cause, smoking remains the primary cause of lung cancer.

Lung cancer is a major cause of concern for Malaysians. One in 55 males and one in 135 females have this cancer. It is also responsible for the most cancer-related deaths in the country.

Types of lung cancer

Lung cancer can be divided into two main categories:

  1. Small cell lung cancer: This is the less common kind of lung cancer and is almost exclusive for heavy smokers.
  2. Non-small cell lung cancer: This is the general term for most types of lung cancers including squamous cell cancer, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma
    • Squamous cell cancer occurs on the flat cells covering your airway surface. It usually developed close to the centre of the lungs
    • Adenocarcinoma is a common lung cancer that starts at the mucus-making gland cells located in your airway lining
    • Large cell carcinoma can develop in any section of the lung and has a tendency to grow and spread more quickly than adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma

Causes of lung cancer

Smoking remains the primary cause of lung cancer. However, there are some cases where individuals also develop lung cancer because of exposure to second-hand smoke or other pollutants. Genetics also plays a role in those who develop lung cancer.

Risk factors of lung cancer

Here are some of the risk factors and causes of lung cancer:

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Previous radiation therapy to the chest
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Exposure to other carcinogens e.g. arsenic, diesel exhaust, silica and chromium
  • Family history of lung cancer

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer

In its early stages, lung cancer does not show any noticeable signs and symptoms. Symptoms become more apparent when it has reached a more advanced stage. Here are some probable symptoms of lung cancer:

  • Persistent cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Unexplained weight loss over a short duration
  • Bone pain
  • Headache
  • Weakness or tired all the time
  • New onset of wheezing
  • Chest pain that worsens with coughing or laughing

Diagnosis of lung cancer

There are several different tests used to diagnose lung cancer. Your doctor might perform one or more of the following tests to determine the cause as well as the stage of your cancer so that effective treatment can be given.

  • Chest x-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Positron emission tomography-CT (PET-CT) scan
  • Bronchoscopy to view the airways in the lungs and biopsy/cytology
  • Endoscopic ultrasound to see if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes located at the centre of the chest
  • Percutaneous lung biopsy using a long needle to take a lung tissue sample
  • Surgical biopsy to take a lung tissue sample
  • Mediastinoscopy to check the centre of the chest and if cancer has spread to the windpipe
  • Gene mutation testing
  • Bone scan to check if cancer from the lung has spread to the bone

Learn more about the different types of screening and diagnostic procedures performed to diagnose lung cancer.

Treatment options for lung cancer

Treatment for lung cancer depends on its type and how much it has spread. Here are some ways in which lung cancer is treated:

Chemotherapy: Special medication is circulated around the body to kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be taken orally or intravenously.

Radiation therapy: High energy beams are aimed at the tumour or specific area to kill the cancer.

Surgery: Your doctor performs an operation to remove the tumour and cancerous tissues.

Targeted therapy: Drugs are used to stop cancer from growing and spreading.

Sometimes, a combination of the methods above is used. For example, your doctor might recommend chemotherapy to shrink a tumour before it is surgically removed.

Learn more about the different types of treatment technologies to treat lung cancer.

Prevention of lung cancer

There are many changes in lifestyle that one can adopt to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. Among these are:

  • Quit smoking: Quitting smoking will reduce the risk of developing lung cancer even if you have been a consistent smoker for years. Stay tobacco-free with the help of counselling or support groups, nicotine replacement therapy, and other medications.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke: Second-hand smoke is equally as dangerous as smoking first-hand. Avoid areas where people smoke.
  • Avoid carcinogens or other environmental causes e.g. radon and diesel exhaust: Some occupational hazards might increase the risk of you developing lung cancer. For example, if you work in construction, this might lead to increased exposure to asbestos. Or, get your house tested for radon.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables. These nutrients are great for fighting off harmful pollutants that can harm the body.
  • Exercise frequently: Exercise is important to keep your body, especially the lungs, in shape.

Detect to Protect!

Treatment is more likely to be successful if lung cancer is identified at an early stage. Screening for lung cancer is recommended for people who smoke or have smoked in the past but have no signs or symptoms.

American Cancer Society recommends annual screening for people who:

  • Are 50 to 80 years old and in fairly good health
  • Currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years
  • Have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history (number of packs of cigarettes per day times the number of years smoked)

Lung cancer screening with spiral CT scans can reduce the chance of death in persons with a high risk of the disease (because of a history of smoking), as compared to regular chest x-rays.

Make an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals

Lung cancer is a serious illness that is responsible for many deaths in Malaysia. Make sure to prevent lung cancer by avoiding smoking, eating healthy, and exercising.

If you or someone in your family is facing any lung cancer symptoms, get in touch with us to find out more about our Oncology Services at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital.

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