|Also Listed As:
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death, responsible for an
estimated 160,000 deaths in the United States annually. There are two major
types: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer, so named because
of how the cells look under a microscope. Non-small cell lung cancer is more
common, and it generally grows and spreads more slowly. There are three main
types of non-small cell lung cancer, named for the type of cells in which the
cancer develops: squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell lung
cancer. Small cell lung cancer grows more quickly and is more likely to spread
to other organs in the body.
|Signs and Symptoms|
Lung cancer is accompanied by the following signs and
- A persistent cough that gets worse over time
- Constant chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
- Repeated pneumonia or bronchitis
- Swelling of the neck and face
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
|What Causes It?|
Multiple exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) results in damage to
DNA in the cells of the body.
|Who's Most At Risk?|
Tobacco smoke is the biggest carcinogen, responsible for 85 percent of all
lung cancers in the United States. Risk increases with the amount of tobacco
used, and the amount of time it has been used. Non-smokers exposed to tobacco
smoke are also at risk for developing lung cancer. Other risk factors include
- Family history
- Environmental and occupational exposure to certain substances,
including arsenic, asbestos, ether, chromium, nickel, and radon
- Exposure to excessive radiation (wartime or industrial exposure, or
radiotherapy to the chest)
- Lung diseases
- Poor diet (however, diets high in fruits and vegetables can decrease
|What to Expect at Your Provider's Office|
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with lung cancer, you should see
your health care provider. He or she will evaluate your medical history, smoking
history, exposure to environmental and occupational substances, and family
history of cancer, and will perform a physical exam. You may be sent for a chest
X ray and other tests. These include a sputum cytology, the microscopic
examination of cells obtained from a deep-cough sample of mucus in the lungs. A
biopsy—the removal of a small sample of tissue for
examination under a microscope by a pathologist—can
confirm whether you have cancer.
If cancer is present, your provider will want to learn the stage (or extent)
of the disease to find out whether the cancer has spread, particularly to the
brain or bones, using tests such as computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI), radionuclide scan, and bone scan.
The best means of prevention is to never start smoking or using chewing
tobacco, or to stop using tobacco products. A healthy diet is an important part
A treatment plan depends on the cell type, stage of disease, possibility for
removing the tumor, and the patient's ability to survive
Various therapies can be used to treat lung cancer.
- Chemotherapy can control cancer growth and relieve
- Photodynamic therapy involves the use of a chemical that is injected
into the bloodstream and absorbed by cells all over the body, and which remains
in cancer cells for a longer time. A laser light activates the chemical,
which then kills the cancer cells. Photodynamic therapy may be used to control
bleeding, relieve breathing problems, or to treat very small
|Surgical and Other Procedures|
Surgery is the only treatment that offers hope of a cure of non-small cell
lung cancer. Removal of a small part of the lung is a segmental or wedge
resection, removal of an entire lobe of the lung is a lobectomy, and removal of
an entire lung is a pneumonectomy. Radiation therapy is used before surgery to
shrink a tumor, or after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells. Radiation
therapy may also be used instead of surgery or to relieve symptoms such as
shortness of breath.
|Complementary and Alternative Therapies|
A comprehensive treatment plan for lung cancer may include a range of
complementary and alternative therapies. Ask your team of health care providers
about the best ways to incorporate these therapies into your overall treatment
Include in your diet dark green, yellow, and orange vegetables, as well as
dark berries, green tea, onions, garlic, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and
cabbage. Increase whole grains and anti-inflammatory oils (nuts, seeds, and
cold-water fish). Eliminate refined foods, sugar, alcohol, and saturated fats
(animal products, especially dairy).
Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include the
- Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg twice per day), vitamin E (400 IU twice per
day), selenium (200 mcg twice a day), zinc (30 mg per day), and coenzyme Q10
(100 mg three times per day)
- Avoid vitamin A (and beta carotene) supplements if you have a history
of alcohol or nicotine abuse.
- Coenzyme Q10 and L-carnitine (600 mg three times per day) can reduce
toxicity from certain chemotherapies.
- Anti-inflammatory omega-3 and omega-6 oils (1,500 mg three times per
- Glutathione (500 mg twice a day)
- N-acetylcysteine (200 mg three times per day)
- Melatonin (10 mg per day) may improve survival rate in non-small cell
lung cancer patients who do not respond to a type of medication called
- Bromelain (250 to 500 mg between
Herbal remedies may help cleanse the body, inhibit tumor growth, and support
the immune system. Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills,
capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise
noted). Dose for teas is 1 heaping tsp. per cup of water steeped for 10 minutes
(roots need 20 minutes).
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa) 500 mg four times a day
- Quercetin (250 to 500 mg three to four times a day)
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) 120 mg standardized extract twice a day
to reduce toxicity of certain chemotherapies
- To help your body's immune system and support healthy lung tissue,
combine equal parts of red clover (Trifolium pratense), gotu kola
(Centella asiatica), mullein (Verbascum densiflorum), elecampane
(Inula helenium), Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata), and blood root
(Sanguinaria canadensis). Take 30 to 60 drops tincture three to four
times a day, or drink one cup of tea three times a day
- Herbal mixes containing burdock root (Arctium lappa), sheep
sorrel (Rumex acetosella), slippery elm (Ulmus fulva), turkey
rhubarb (Rheum palmatum), and other herbs: for brand name
products, follow dosing instructions on the product
Homeopathy may help reduce symptoms, relieve side effects from treatments,
and reduce the effects of stress.
Castor oil pack over lungs may decrease side effects of chemotherapy and aid
the lungs in detoxification. Saturate a cloth with castor oil and apply directly
to the skin, placing a heat source (heating pad or water bottle) on top. Leave
in place for 30 minutes or more. For best results, use castor oil packs for
three to four consecutive days per week. Packs may be used
While acupuncture is not used as a treatment for cancer itself, evidence
suggests it can be a valuable therapy for cancer-related symptoms (particularly
nausea and vomiting that often accompanies chemotherapy treatment). There have
also been studies indicating that acupuncture may help reduce pain and shortness
of breath. Acupressure (pressing on rather than needling acupuncture points) has
also proved useful in controlling breathlessness; this is a technique that
patients can learn and then use to treat themselves.
Some acupuncturists prefer to work with a patient only after the completion
of conventional medical cancer therapy. Others will provide acupuncture and/or
herbal therapy during active chemotherapy or radiation. Acupuncturists treat
cancer patients based on an individualized assessment of the excesses and
deficiencies of qi located in various meridians. In many cases of cancer-related
symptoms, a qi deficiency is usually detected in the spleen or kidney
The outlook varies by cell type and stage of the disease. In general, the
prognosis is better for squamous cell cancers than for adenocarcinomas. Early
detection is key to better chances of survival.
Periodic follow-up is useful in helping to detect recurrence of the lung
cancer or other smoking-related cancers. Frequent follow-up and rehabilitation
for loss of lung function from cancer, surgery, or other treatment may be
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|Review Date: March 2000|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Richard A. Lippin, MD, President,
The Lippin Group, Southampton, PA; Anne McClenon, ND, Compass Family Health
Center, Plymouth, MA; Marcellus Walker, MD, LAc, (Acupuncture section October
2001) St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center, New York, NY; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH,
MBA, (Acupuncture section October 2001) President and Chairman, Hawaii State
Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu,
Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc
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