According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are four common types of lung cancer:
- Non-small cell lung cancer
- Small cell lung cancer
- Lung nodules
While many forms of the disease involve cancer that originates inside the lung, other kinds affect different areas of the organ. Mesothelioma, for instance, affects the lining of the lungs and sometimes other organs, such as the heart or abdomen. While certain types of lung cancer occur spontaneously, many instances arise from long-term exposure to toxins on worksites and in residences.
How Doctors Distinguish Between Different Types of Lung Cancers
Lung cancers grow and spread in different ways, depending on their type. Knowing the type of lung cancer that a patient has can help them understand and make informed decisions about their treatment options.
Small Cell Lung Cancer
The most aggressive form of the disease, the American Cancer Society estimates that small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for up to 15% of lung cancer cases. Because it spreads more quickly than other types, doctors often do not discover SCLC until it has spread, or metastasized, to other areas of the body.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) makes up approximately 85% of all lung cancer cases in the United States. NSCLC cancers include adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and large cell carcinomas. Doctors provide treatment options based on the stage of cancer and the overall health of the patient.
- Stage 0: Surgery.
- Stages I-II: Surgery, sometimes followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation.
- Stage IIIA-IIB: A combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, as well as immunotherapy.
- Stage IV: Some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy improves the patient’s quality of life but is likely not to cure it.
While technically a cancer of the mesothelium, or the protective lining around the organs, mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs in three of every four cases of the disease. Patients often receive a mesothelioma diagnosis when the disease has already progressed and spread to other parts of the body, as symptoms often seem to mimic those of other conditions. Symptoms listed by the Mayo Clinic include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Unexplained weight loss
Within five years of diagnosis, the American Cancer Society found that approximately 90% of mesothelioma sufferers succumb to the disease.
Primary Causes of Lung Cancer
The causes of lung cancer vary based on type, but three major factors contribute to its development in many patients. Because it more commonly occurs because of an environmental factor as opposed to genetics, lung cancer occurs in men and women in nearly equal proportions. The American Cancer Society reports that lung cancer accounts for the second-highest number of cancer cases for both women (behind breast cancer) and men (behind prostate cancer).
Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke combine to cause nearly 80% of all lung cancer deaths in the United States. While most people know about the dangers of cigarette smoking today, tobacco companies hid its potentially fatal effects from consumers for decades. The information about tobacco’s dangers has contributed to a substantial decline in smoking in the generations since the disclosure of its dangers. Unfortunately, some patients already suffered years or even decades of exposure to the carcinogens in cigarettes before learning of their presence.
A combination of six naturally occurring minerals, asbestos does not react to heat, chemicals, fire, or electricity. For this reason, many industries began mining and using asbestos in the late 1800s for the construction of homes and businesses. Its use became widespread and continued through the 1980s, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned it for use in new projects. However, those who worked with or around asbestos before the EPA stepped in have a higher risk of developing diseases and cancers such as mesothelioma because of their exposure. About 80% of mesothelioma patients experienced asbestos exposure, and according to the National Cancer Institute, it can take up to 40 years for symptoms to appear.
Scientists estimate that exposure to radon gas causes up to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year. Because the naturally occurring gas does not have a color, taste, or smell, it often goes undetected in homes, apartment buildings, and offices for many years. Property owners have a responsibility to keep tenants, guests, and employees safe by regularly scheduling professional radon testing.
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Seeking Legal Assistance for Your Lung Cancer Case
Many individuals diagnosed with lung cancer can trace the disease’s cause back to an occupational hazard or exposure to a substance that consumers at the time did not know carried risks. Additionally, the negligence of property owners who do not disclose or test for the presence of toxic substances (e.g., asbestos and radon) in their facilities may lead to instances of lung cancer and other related diseases in unsuspecting tenants, guests, and employees.
If you believe that your exposure to carcinogenic materials caused you to develop lung cancer, mesothelioma, or another serious condition, a personal injury attorney can help you seek compensation. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 794-0444 to speak to our legal team for free about your case.