Dr Chris discusses CT scans detecting lung cancer
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Every year 38,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer. Most people who are diagnosed are older than 60 and are or have been smokers. For non-smokers, second-hand smoke from the home or workplace can increase your risk of lung cancer by up to 30 percent. Other risk factors include radiation and asbestos.
The most common forms of lung cancer form in the airways leading into the lungs.
If the tumour is obstructing the airways it may also cause shortness of breath, wheezing and a persistent cough that may include blood and phlegm.
A tumour located at the top of the lung can create pressure on nerves and blood vessels going into the arm, causing pain and weakness in the limb.
A persistent feeling of pins and needles can accompany this. An earlier sign that can be difficult to spot is clubbing of the fingers, where the tips of the fingers become engorged from lack of oxygen.
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In some cases the tumour might press against blood flow to the head, resulting in swelling around the face.
Signs in common with other forms of cancer include tiredness and weight loss.
In some cases a lung tumour might release large amounts of hormones that cause symptoms further away in the body.
Lung cancer can coincide with other lung infections. If you have a lung infection that is not responding to antibiotics or other treatments your doctor might investigate for lung cancer.
If you believe you suffer from lung cancer your doctor can arrange for you to have a chest X-ray.
This initial test can identify abnormal structures in the lung that are indicative of cancer, however further testing is often needed after to confirm a positive diagnosis.
A CAT scan produces a three dimensional image of the lungs while a biopsy from the lymph glands can identify whether cancer has spread out of the lungs.
The outcome of the further tests will often determine what treatment options your doctor will be able to provide.
When identified early there are treatments available that have the potential to cure it.
More advanced forms of lung cancer are difficult to cure, but treatment is still able to slow its progression and ease the more painful symptoms.
Lung cancers often spread more quickly than other forms of cancer, with cancer cells spreading through the blood that runs through the lungs and travels to the rest of the body.
This often means that lung cancer is detected only after spreading.
You can minimise your risk of developing lung cancer by maintaining your general physical health and avoiding risk factors.
Smoking and air pollution are the best understood risk factors but there are other chemicals that can produce cancer when inhaled or handled.
Working in the chemical production of chromium or handling or nickel compounds has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer.
Asbestos is a flaky material formerly used in the construction of buildings until the discovery that it caused cancer.
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