Insights Health Care
Clearing the air
The causes, symptoms and treatments for lung cancer Interviewed by Chelan David
ung cancer is one of the most common This information will help the doctor stage
L malignancies in both genders. In terms
of new cancer cases each year, it ranks
second only to breast cancer in women
the lung cancer and plan the most effective
and second to prostate cancer in men. How can lung cancer be treated?
There are approximately 170,000 new lung
cancer cases annually, and each year about Individual treatment plans are generated
160,000 deaths are attributed to it. on the basis of several factors, including
As a result, says Dr. Jay M. Lee, Surgical the type of lung cancer, stage and the over-
Director of the Thoracic Oncology all health of the patient. Treatment strate-
Program at the David Geffen School of
gies may be used in varying combinations
Medicine at UCLA, “Lung cancer is the
to treat or palliate lung cancer. There are
deadliest malignancy and the leading cause
three main treatment modalities: surgery,
of cancer-related mortality in both women
and men.” chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Smart Business spoke with Lee about
lung cancer, how it is detected and what What steps can one take to decrease their
steps can be taken to reduce the odds of chances of getting lung cancer?
getting this form of cancer. Dr. Jay M. Lee
Surgical Director The most common risk factors associat-
What are the different types of lung cancer? Thoracic Oncology Program ed with lung cancer development are
David Geffen School of Medicine smoking, secondhand smoke, radon expo-
Lung cancer is a malignancy where can- UCLA Medical Center sure and asbestos exposure. Smoking ciga-
cer cells grow in the tissues of the lung. rettes or cigars is the most common cause,
There are two major types of lung cancer, Because these symptoms are also pres- resulting in almost 90 percent of lung can-
nonsmall-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and ent in other lung problems, you should cer cases. Secondhand smoke is also a risk
small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). NSCLC is consult your doctor to find out the cause of factor and is attributed to about 3,000 lung
much more common and accounts for 80 the condition. cancer deaths annually. Thus, smoking ces-
percent of lung cancer cases. By the sation and avoidance of secondhand
appearance of the cancer cells under the How is lung cancer detected? smoke are obvious lifestyle modifications
microscope, several histologic subtypes to reduce cancer risk.
have been classified for NSCLC. The com- Patients with suspected lung cancer are Radon is a natural radioactive gas and a
mon subtypes include adenocarcinoma, detected in two scenarios: 1) The onset of known lung cancer carcinogen and cannot
squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carci- symptoms prompts a visit to the doctor or be seen, smelled or tasted. However, its
noma and carcinoid tumors. 2) in the case of asymptomatic individuals, presence in your home or workplace can
a routine examination and radiologic test- pose a danger to your health. Radon has
What are the possible signs of lung cancer? ing leads to the finding of an abnormal spot been shown to be the leading cause of lung
[tumor] in the lung. In both situations, the cancer among nonsmokers, accounting for
Lung cancer can be present with no doctor will evaluate a person's medical his- approximately 20,000 lives annually. Test-
symptoms, particularly in its early stages. tory, assess risk factors and obtain a family ing for excessive levels is encouraged.
However, when symptoms do occur, they history of cancer. The doctor will also per- Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was once
can include nonspecific and often subtle form a physical examination and may used in building construction materials.
symptoms such as: order a chest X-ray or a specialized X-ray Although its use has been banned, asbestos
called a chest CT scan. Although the radio- can be found in older homes, in pipe and
• Chronic cough logic studies allow the detection of abnor- furnace insulation materials, paints and
• Hoarseness mal spots in the lung, they do not provide other coating materials. It’s a well-known
• Hemoptysis (coughing up blood) tissue confirmation of lung cancer. carcinogen that can cause lung cancer and
• Unexpected weight loss or loss of Therefore, to make a diagnosis of lung can- mesothelioma. Avoidance or safe handling
appetite cer, the doctor will need to obtain a sample of asbestos fibers is important.
• Difficulty breathing or biopsy of the lung tumor. If you are diag-
• Wheezing nosed with lung cancer, the doctor will do DR. JAY M. LEE is Surgical Director of the Thoracic Oncology
• Bronchitis or pneumonia further radiologic testing to find out Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Reach
• Chest pain or discomfort whether the cancer has spread outside of him at JaymoonLee@mednet.ucla.edu or (310) 794-7333. For
• Fatigue the chest and to other parts of the body. more information, visit www.lungcancer.ucla.edu.
Insights Health Care is brought to you by the UCLA Medical Center
20 SmartBusiness Los Angeles August 2007