Why Do Lung Cancer Tumors Form?
Abnormal growths or tumors form because cancer cells divide faster than healthy cells. As more and more cancer cells grow, they end up collecting into a tumor.
Lung cancer cells become cancerous and form tumors due to genetic mutations, according to the American Lung Association (ALA).
The most common cause of these genetic mutations is cigarette smoking. Cigarettes contain over 70 cancer-causing substances and over 7,000 chemicals in total, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Your risk of a lung cancer tumor increases the more you smoked and the longer you smoked.
Exposure to secondhand smoke (if you were a non-smoker), air pollution, radon, asbestos, and other cancer-causing substances can also trigger the cell mutations that cause lung cancer.
Knowing you have lung cancer tumors within your body can be unsettling and even scary. Thankfully, help is available. Your health care team can come up with a plan to remove or shrink the tumors after you’ve been diagnosed.
Further, it may be possible to get compensation for your lung cancer tumor. Lung Cancer Group is ready to help you and your loved ones pursue financial aid and justice. Find out your eligibility right now.
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Asbestos and Lung Cancer Tumors
Asbestos exposure is one of many risk factors that can lead to someone developing lung cancer. However, many asbestos-related lung cancer tumors could have been prevented had companies been focused on keeping people safe.
Between the 1930s and early 1980s, asbestos was used in thousands of products because it was fire-resistant, very durable, and cheap. However, damaged asbestos products can send fibers flying into the air.
Asbestos fibers can get stuck in the lungs and irritate healthy cells for decades on end, eventually causing lung cancer tumors to form.
Asbestos should never have been used once the dangers were known. However, makers of asbestos-based products learned of the risks back in the 1930s and hid them. They put millions of people at risk of lung cancer tumors and other asbestos-related diseases to make money.
The Lung Cancer Group team finds this corporate neglect unacceptable. That’s why we strive to help those with lung cancer pursue justice. Call (877) 446-5767 to learn if you can get financial compensation from makers of asbestos-containing products for your lung cancer tumors.
Lung Cancer Tumor Symptoms
Lung tumors grow in and around airways, causing many long-term symptoms that affect how a patient breathes. Other symptoms may appear as more tumors form in other parts of the body due to cancer metastasis (spread).
- Appetite loss
- Chest pain
- A cough that doesn’t go away
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Coughing up bloody or dark sputum (mucus from the lungs)
If the lung tumors are blocking major airways, the patient may also suffer repeated bouts of pneumonia, bronchitis, or other similar health problems.
If you smoked, currently smoke, and/or were exposed to asbestos, but don’t have symptoms of a lung cancer tumor, it’s a good idea to get a lung cancer screening. Doing so may help doctors catch a lung cancer tumor even before you start to experience symptoms.
Unfortunately, many patients won’t have symptoms until the lung cancer tumors have grown and spread through their bodies. The tumors are often harder to treat at that point.
Types of Lung Cancer Tumors
Any type of lung cancer can cause tumors to develop.
The three main types of lung cancer include:
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
Between 80% and 85% of lung cancer tumors are NSCLC, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). NSCLC tumors don’t spread as quickly as small cell lung cancer tumors do but they’re still dangerous.
- Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
SCLC accounts for 10-15% of lung cancer tumors. SCLC tumors are the most aggressive, so they spread very quickly and are hard to treat.
- Bronchial Carcinoids
Some lung cancer tumors are made up of mutated neuroendocrine cells found in the lungs. These cells control air and blood flow, hormones, and the growth of other cells. Bronchial carcinoid tumors are very rare (making up 1-2% of lung cancer cases) but are the easiest type to treat.
While most types of lung cancer tumors are life-threatening, the good news is that patients can access medical care to live longer and/or ease their symptoms. Each type of lung cancer tumor requires a slightly different treatment approach, which makes a proper diagnosis critical.
Diagnosing Lung Cancer Tumors
Doctors typically diagnose lung cancer tumors by first investigating a patient’s symptoms, then taking scans of the patient’s lungs, and finally extracting a medical sample called a biopsy.
If you’re worried that you have a lung cancer tumor, tell your doctor right away. They can take note of any symptoms you may have and determine if an imaging scan may be needed.
Imaging scans used to diagnose lung cancer tumors include:
- Chest X-rays: A low dose of radiation is used to see inside the chest and lungs
- CT scans: Multiple X-rays are taken from different angles so doctors can get a better look into the body
- MRI scans: Images are created using magnetic fields and a special dye
- PET scans: Doctors can see into the lungs using a radioactive sugar substance
“Chest X-rays, CT, MRI, and PET scans help detect and diagnose your type of lung cancer tumor. They are interpreted by radiologists with special training in thoracic and pulmonary conditions, including lung cancer.”
— Duke Health
Doctors can also use other tests to look for lung cancer tumor markers. Markers are any substance that sets a lung cancer tumor apart from a healthy cell. Common marker tests look for mutations in the genes of lung cells to determine if they’re cancerous or not.
Your doctor may recommend a biopsy if they see something that looks like a lung tumor during an imaging scan, or if a marker test indicates that cancer cells may be present. The goal of a biopsy is to remove a sample of lung tissue or fluid that may be cancerous and look at it under a microscope. By doing so, doctors can confirm if the tumor is indeed lung cancer.
A common way doctors extract a biopsy is through a bronchoscopy. Through this procedure, doctors feed a narrow tube with a tiny camera at the end down the windpipe and in the lungs to take a biopsy sample.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a lung cancer tumor, financial aid may be available. Get a free case review now to learn more.
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Prognosis for Lung Cancer Tumors
Typically speaking, lung cancer has a poor prognosis (overall health outlook). However, you may be able to live for long periods of time if doctors can remove or shrink your lung cancer tumors.
Most patients with lung cancer tumors live for 8-23 months on average. The 5-year survival rate (percentage of lung cancer patients still alive after diagnosis) is 18.6%.
Doctors can determine your prognosis after making a diagnosis and looking at the unique factors in your case. You may be able to live for years or decades if doctors catch the lung cancer tumors before they’ve grown and spread.
Lung Cancer Tumor Growth Rates and Prognosis
How fast lung cancer tumors grow (growth rates) plays a big part in a patient’s prognosis. The growth rate is how big a tumor grows after a certain span of time (typically months), according to the medical journal Frontiers in Oncology.
A 2020 study looked at how lung cancer tumors grew back after surgery had been done to remove them. The study revealed that it would take anywhere from 4 months to 2 and a half years for the tumors to double in size if left unchecked.
Many factors — including the lung cancer cell type a patient had — played a role in how quickly the tumors would grow.
Lung Cancer Tumor Staging
Doctors classify lung cancer cases into stages depending on how far the tumors have spread. The size of lung cancer tumors plays a big role in determining a patient’s stage. Generally speaking, bigger tumors are linked to later stages of lung cancer and poorer health outcomes.
The five stages of non-small cell lung cancer include:
- Stage 0
Doctors find a tiny tumor on the top lining of the lungs. Stage 0 tumors haven’t grown deep into the lungs yet so they’re very easy to treat.
- Stage I
Doctors find a tumor in the lungs, and it may have started to spread into nearby areas like the bronchi (main parts of the lungs that connect to the windpipe). However, it’s still easily treatable. Tumors range from less than 1-4 centimeters wide.
- Stage II
The tumors have started to invade the chest wall, pleura (lung lining), and nearby lymph nodes in some cases. These lung cancer tumors range in size from more than 3 centimeters to less than 5 centimeters wide. Stage 2 is still an early stage and patients can often be treated with great success.
- Stage III
These lung cancer tumors are harder to treat as they’ve spread to areas like the pericardium (heart lining), backbone, esophagus, and lymph nodes on either side of the body. The tumors can range from 3-7 centimeters wide.
- Stage IV
This is the final and most severe stage. It’s also known as metastatic lung cancer. The cancer tumors can be found in both lungs, distant lymph nodes, and parts of the body like the liver, brain, or bones. These tumors can be quite big, but treatments can help shrink them
“Due to its minimal symptoms, lung cancer is often not detected until it reaches stages 3 or 4 when a tumor is the size of an orange.”
— Preventative Diagnostic Center of Los Angeles
Small cell lung cancer is divided into either the limited stage (where the cancer is just in one lung and possibly local lymph nodes) or the advanced stage (where the cancer is in both lungs and/or other major organs). Tumors in the limited stage are typically smaller than the ones found in the extensive stage.
Treating Lung Cancer Tumors
Doctors can use a couple of different treatment options to shrink or completely remove lung cancer tumors. Which lung cancer treatments will be used depends on how big the tumors are, how far they’ve spread, the patient’s health, and a number of other factors.
- Surgery is arguably the best treatment for lung cancer tumors. Different surgeries allow doctors to remove the lung cancer tumors and parts of the lung that the tumors invaded. One of the patient’s lungs may need to be removed in some cases.
- Chemotherapy medications can help shrink lung cancer tumors. Chemotherapy can be used before or after surgery, or as the main treatment a patient receives.
- Immunotherapy improves the body’s natural ability to destroy lung cancer cells. Some lung cancer immunotherapy treatments work by blocking proteins on cancer cells that would allow them to hide from the immune system. Others allow the body to make more cells that could destroy cancerous ones.
- Radiation therapy allows doctors to shrink lung cancer tumors by using beams of energy. Like chemotherapy, it may be used as the main treatment or as a supplement to chemotherapy.
- Targeted therapy attacks lung cancer cells with specific gene mutations. It’s currently used to treat NSCLC tumors that are widespread.
- Palliative care focuses on easing the patient’s symptoms. Many of the other treatments listed above can be scaled back to become palliative treatments. Palliative care options often allow doctors to shrink lung cancer tumors as well.
- Clinical trials test out new treatments and study ways to make existing treatments more effective. Patients can see if there are clinical trials they can join at their cancer center by speaking to their doctor.
Is a Lung Tumor Fatal?
Not all lung tumors are fatal. Many people have become long-term survivors after being diagnosed with lung cancer tumors.
You will need to seek medical treatment to shrink the tumor or have it surgically removed, though. Without treatment, the tumor may continue to grow and ultimately cause your prognosis to worsen.
Get Help for Lung Cancer Tumors
Lung cancer tumors can be very painful and even deadly without proper medical treatment. Thankfully, cancer care teams at medical centers all over the country can help you live longer and with less pain.
It may even be possible to live the rest of your life without lung cancer, depending on how small the tumor is when you’re diagnosed and how your body responds to treatments. Keep in mind that there are treatments available for all lung cancer stages to help you live as long as possible.
Lung Cancer Group will walk through your diagnosis with you and help you pursue financial aid for treatment. Dealing with lung cancer is stressful enough — paying for it shouldn’t have to be. Find out your eligibility for financial aid right now with a free case review.
FAQs About Lung Cancer Tumors
Are lung cancer tumors the same as mesothelioma tumors?
No. Lung cancer is an entirely different type of cancer from mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is much rarer and more aggressive. Its tumors form in the linings of the lungs, heart, abdomen, or testicles.
Doctors also need to use different treatments if a patient has mesothelioma than if they had lung cancer since the tumors may not start in the lungs.
Is a tumor in the lung curable?
Yes. Though there’s not an official cure for lung cancer, doctors may say you’re ‘cured’ if they can remove the cancer tumors from your body. After that point, you may need regular follow-up visits to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back.
The National Cancer Institute notes that patients with lung cancer tumors can sometimes be ‘cured’ through surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.
How long can you live with a lung tumor?
It’s possible to live for years or decades after being diagnosed with a lung cancer tumor. Treatment is key to living longer with a lung tumor. For example, some patients have lived for 15 years or more with the right treatments.
NSCLC patients that didn’t get treatment lived for just 7.15 months on average, according to a study from the journal Systematic Reviews.
What are the chances of surviving a lung tumor?
The odds of surviving a lung cancer tumor greatly depend on when you’re diagnosed.
For example, the ALA found that 56% of patients live for 5 years if they’re diagnosed before cancer spreads outside the lung. In contrast, only 5% of patients with metastatic lung cancer are still alive 5 years later.
Doctors can help determine your odds of surviving a lung cancer tumor. Keep in mind that your chances may increase or decrease depending on how your body responds to treatments.
Does lung cancer tumor size predict survival?
In some ways, yes. The size of a lung cancer tumor is directly linked to cancer stage. Bigger lung cancer tumors mean that the cancer is in a more advanced stage where fewer treatments may be available. Thus, bigger lung cancer tumors often correlate with lower life expectancies.
That said, your doctor can treat a lung tumor no matter its size and they’ll do everything they can to help you live as long as possible.