Lung Cancer Reflection

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Throughout my life, I’ve been surrounded by smokers: My grandfather, father, and step-mother – all smokers. And guess what? They all have cancer. Growing up with the smell of tobacco lingering in my nostrils allowed me develop a keen hatred for smokers. This hatred has now evolved into addiction and dependence. I can attribute this to my social surroundings and careless nutrition habits. Part of smoking involves the act of deep breathing, and I know that helps calm me down too. I'm aware can I can do breathwork without the extra nicotine, It's also stimulating, and a way for me to take a break from people. I struggle with nicotine every day. Unfortunately, New England is an area with some of the highest lung cancer rates in the country2. However, clearly I’m not the only addict in recent memory. Cancer Facts & Figures 20101 states: “Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women.” As a potential client of the 1.3 million deaths worldwide since 20043, I felt compelled to learn more about my potential disease.

Lung cancer derives from uncontrollable cell growth in lung tissue. This growth may facilitate metastasis, which stretches beyond the lungs. Most lung cancers are carcinomas of the lung from epithelial cells. Since starting smoking, I’ve experienced numerous symptoms that lead to lung cancer: Dyspnea, hemoptysis, wheezing, chest pain, and cachexia. Though I may not have already contracted the disease, I have educated myself further on a practice beyond healthy nutrition habits that could save my life: Stop smoking cigarettes. 

Lung cancers are classified by histological type, distinguished by size and appearance of the malignant cells seen only under a microscope. These two types are non-small cell (NCSLC) and small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC). NSCLC “refers to a subset of cancer types that account for approximately 70% of lung cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, large cell carcinoma of the lung, and adenocarcinoma of the lung7.” Conversely, SCLC is responsible for approximately 15% of bronchogenic carcinomas. However, deaths resulting from SCLC in the United States have decreased during the past few decades. “Without treatment, SCLC has the most aggressive clinical course of any type of pulmonary tumor, with median survival from diagnosis of only 2 to 4 months.  SCLC is more responsive to chemotherapy and radiation therapy; however, a cure is difficult to achieve because SCLC has a greater tendency to be widely disseminated by the time of diagnosis. It is the cancer most commonly associated with paraneoplastic syndromes, including the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion, paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration, and Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome9.”

During my research, I stumbled across a breakthrough for NSCLC. “Research at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center led by Charles E. Chalfant, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular Biology, discovered a previously unknown mechanism in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells that contributes to their ability to maintain and grow tumors. Narrowing in on this mechanism could provide a breakthrough for the development of effective therapies for NSCLC and other cancers.”10 But wait, there’s even more hope. A new inhalable dry powder treatment has displayed increasing survival rates, facilitating less radiation or surgery and preventing more toxins from polluting the body. “Current lung cancer treatments can be grueling and take a significant toll on the patient," said Raimar Löbenberg from the University of Alberta. "Our results show that this treatment method may not only increase someone's survival rate but could also potentially be less toxic to the body."11

Since cancer develops in our airways, it makes sense that this prevention of airflow would cause breathing problems. This may facilitate secretion accumulation behind the blocked airway, exposing the victim to contraction of pneumonia. In addition, numerous lung cancers are rich in blood supply. So, if these cells are sensitive, blood my come from the cancer into the airways and essentially coughed out of the mouth. Tumors like Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, hypercalcemia, or syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH) may also attract the disease. Tumors sitting on top of the lung causes altered sweat patterns and eye muscle issues because brachial plexus invasion.

I found throughout my studies that almost 90% of lung cancer developed across the world is because of smoking4. Particularly of cigarettes, because this smoke contains over 60 known carcinogens, radioisotopes resulting from radon decay, nitrosamine, and benzopyrene. Nicotine also depresses the immune system reaction to malignant growth in tissue that is exposed5. Even exposure to wood smoke destroys the lungs, increasing risk of COPD and related pulmonary problems. "When cigarette smokers are exposed to wood smoke their risk of having reduced lung function increases," explained Yohannes Tesfaigzi, Ph.D. senior scientist and director of COPD Program at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, where the research was completed. "Cigarette smokers who have both changes in sputum DNA and are exposed to wood smoke have a synergistically increased risk of having reduced lung function and other indicators of COPD such as chronic mucous hypersecretion."6 Other causes of lung cancer include passive smoking, radon gas, asbestos, viruses, and particulate matter. Clearly, exposure is what kills.

There are multiple ways to treat lung cancer. Diagnosing the disease begins with a chest radiograph. If this does not suffice, a bronchoscopy or CT scan may be needed. Treating lung cancer depends on the cell type, spread, and infected person’s performance.  Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radio therapy. There are also various nutritional recommendations depending on present symptoms and treatment is endured by the patient. These options can be reviewed at the Health Castle’s Lung Cancer Diet & Treatment website. Most side effects subside after treatment, so a person can gradually resume a normal diet upon recovery. If a healthy weight and diet are stabilized, a person may begin to pursue appropriate healthy exercise and eating habits specific to their needs.

Combating lung cancer should be apparent by this point. Preventing lung cancer is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent manifestation. Avoiding tobacco smoke of any kind must be the main foal for prevention. Even though we may never be able to escape smoke because of our social surroundings, we can avoid directly inhaling potential cancer. Long term supplement use of multi-vitamins like C, E, and folate don’t reduce risk. Conversely, this may actually increase the risk of lung cancer.

Smoke seems to be the source of lung cancer issues, even though lung cancer was around before the mass adoption of this terrible habit. Everything unhealthy results from smoke, especially the leading cause of cancer deaths in our World. Bottom line, young kids, and myself, need to stop smoking. Happiness and health are on the horizon.









8Govindan R, Page N, Morgensztern D, et al.: Changing epidemiology of small-cell lung cancer in the United States over the last 30 years: analysis of the surveillance, epidemiologic, and end results database. J Clin Oncol 24 (28): 4539-44, 2006





13Understanding Normal & Clinical Nutrition, 8th Edition

Wednesday, December 8, 2010
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