Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer affecting both men and women worldwide. Some of the most prevalent causes of lung cancer can be the prolonged habit of smoking nicotine, exposure to radioactive particles, passive smoking, air pollution. Apart from these external factors, genes may often be the contributing factors for individuals with a family history of lung cancer.
Cancer of the lung in older adults who smoke is fairly common. Multiple studies show that elderly individuals are at a higher risk of developing respiratory diseases due to gradually declining immune response. And the risk of developing respiratory diseases such as lung cancer is much higher in smokers as they age. However, timely diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer can help cure or prevent the spread of the disease.
Treatments for lung cancer in the elderly may depend on their existing cardiac and pulmonary health. Therefore, often in high-risk elderly patients, a lung cancer diagnosis may include cardiovascular and other geriatric assessment and evaluations.
Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer symptoms in females can be different than that of males. It primarily depends upon the form of lung cancer an individual is affected by. While men may experience difficulty in breathing, women may experience shoulder and back pain. In the elderly, one of the lung cancer symptoms can often be mild to severe chest pain.
In many cases, there are usually no signs and symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer. Signs and symptoms gradually become discernible as the condition develops stage by stage.
Here are some of the most common signs of lung cancer:
• Prolonged cough (2 to 3 weeks)
• Aggressive bouts of cough
• Recurrent respiratory infections
• Coughing up blood (May vary from individual to individual)
• Ache or pain in the chest region when breathing or coughing
• Frequent breathlessness
• Fatigue or lack of energy
• Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
Some other less common signs and symptoms of lung cancer can be as follows:
• Change in voice
• Swelling in face or neck
• Prolonged wheezing
• Recurrent chest and shoulder pain that may radiate towards back
Any individual experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms must consult their general physician without any delay. Apart from these symptoms and signs, lung cancer may often cause finger clubbing. However, this again depends upon the severity of the condition and health of a particular individual suffering from lung cancer.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Lung Cancer
Timely diagnosis is important for the successful treatment of lung cancer. Often, delay in recognising the signs and symptoms of lung cancer may delay the treatment. Your general physician or the oncologist may prescribe the following tests for lung cancer staging.
1. Imaging Test: CT Scans and X-rays can help rule out the presence of nodules and lesions.
2. Sputum Cytology: It can help in detecting the presence of cancerous cells.
3. Biopsies: Biopsies may help to identify the form of lung cancer an individual may have.
Once the lung cancer diagnosis is done, lung cancer staging may be prescribed by the pulmonologist/oncologist. To determine the spread and extent of lung cancer, staging tests are crucial.
After diagnosis, the pulmonologist or oncologist will decide a treatment plan which will depend on various factors such as the stage of cancer, overall health of the individual, and often, personal preferences. Elderly patients with lung cancer may have to go through several other diagnostic procedures to qualify for a treatment plan.
Surgery is one of the primary treatment procedures to treat lung cancer. These surgical procedures are commonly aimed at removing a small section of the lung that contains the malignant tumour. However, in many cases, a larger portion or even the entire lobe is removed. Then comes the rare cases where an entire lung is removed.
In some cases, cancer may come back and that is when the doctor recommends chemotherapy or radiation therapy following surgery.
2. Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy makes use of high-powered energy beams to eradicate cancer cells. In cases where surgery is not successful in removing all the cancer cells, chemotherapy and radiation therapy become the primary treatment plan.
In Chemotherapy, drugs and sometimes a combination of different drugs are administered intravenously or orally to kill the cancer cells. The treatment plan may take weeks or months.
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these lung cancer treatment procedures can help patients with lung cancer recover from the disease. However, apart from clinical treatment plans, palliative care is one of the most important parts of the entire treatment plan.
4. Palliative care
People undergoing lung cancer treatment often experience side effects of treatment. In such cases, supportive care or palliative care plays a crucial role in recuperation. In this, the doctors help to minimise the signs and symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment.
This may also include caring for chemo patients at home for which one may get in touch with trained medical professionals.
Cancer is a disease that is not only detrimental to one’s physical health but also their psychological well-being. Along with quality medical treatment, it is extremely important to seek quality psychological care where the emotional health of patients undergoing cancer treatment is being taken care of. You can bank upon Emoha to help take care of your elders’ healthcare needs in the most friendly and compassionate manner. For us, it is always #EldersFirst