Lung cancer

learn more about lung cancer

Lung cancer originates from the exaggerated and uncontrolled proliferation of certain lung cells, causing local problems due to the occupying of space and pressure on neighbouring structures.

If not controlled in time, the malignant cells reach other organs in the body (metastasis) through the blood or lymphocytic circulation.

Smoking is the most significant risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Ninety percent of these malignant tumours are caused by tobacco.

A smoker has a 10 to 30-fold greater risk of experiencing lung cancer than a non-smoker.

For lung cancer, there is no extensive early detection programme for the general population.

In contrast, the Clinica Universidad de Navarra does offer a programme of this nature using low-radiation chest CT scans.

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The most common symptom of lung cancer is a persistent cough, combined or not with expectoration. The symptom occurs in 45%-75% of patients.

For asymptomatic patients, the diagnosis usually occurs by chance from routine chest radiography or for other reasons (medical insurance, check-ups, etc.).

In most cases, the patient visits the doctor for symptoms caused by the primary tumour (original tumour in the lung) or for metastases or paraneoplastic syndromes (parallel to the cancer, generally caused by substances produced by the tumour).

The symptoms are somewhat non-specific and can appear in other diseases. It is therefore important that a specialist provide an assessment and guide the diagnosis.

Another symptom is dyspnoea or shortness of breath, typically caused by the occupation of lung space, which hinders the proper entry of air.

Haemoptysis, or blood in the sputum, is a worrying sign and should be studied. Nevertheless, lung cancer only causes 20% of all cases of haemoptysis, with acute bronchitis the most common cause. Up to 50% of patients with lung cancer present haemoptysis at some point.

In men, tobacco is the causal agent of lung cancer in 90% of cases; for women, this percentage decreases to 79%. The chances a chronic smoker has of experiencing lung cancer over the course of their life can reach 30%, while for non-smokers the chances are 1%. The risk depends on the number of cigarettes smoked per day, as well as the number of years that the individual has been a smoker.

By stopping smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer decreases as the years go by, although the risk index remains several years after abandoning the habit.

Other factors include exposure to asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic and nickel and experiencing other lung diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis.

Recently, second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke (passive smokers) and exposure to radon have gained importance as potential risk factors.

Smoking cessation is possible with the Clínica's Smoking Cessation Programme.

70% of smokers want to permanently quit smoking and express this intention in the mid to long term. However, most run into major difficulties.

Considerable motivation is required of the individual and those closest to them. In most cases, several attempts are needed.

Participating in a smoking cessation programme such as the one offered by the Clinic substantially increases the chances of successfully quitting smoking. The programme has the support and follow-up of pulmonologists and specialised nurses, as well as a complement of highly effective drugs.

The Programme consists of a Pneumology consultation, spirometry, a session with the nursing department and personalised monitoring.

Respiratory physiotherapy facilitates the elimination of secretions, decreasing the respiratory effort by reducing the bronchial resistances and preventing and treating lung complications.

This type of therapy is crucial for treating respiratory diseases that progress with an increase in secretions, such as cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Its objective is to improve the symptoms and delay the progression of the disease to achieve the maximum physical, mental, social and occupational capacity for the patient.

The cost of conducting early detection programmes with chest CT is not excessive for society, because early treatment of lung cancer is much less expensive than in advanced phases".

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