The idea of cancer is a terrifying one. While there are different types of the disease and some are easier to cure than others, the fact remains that cancer is one of the deadliest diseases known to man. Among the various types of cancer, that of the lungs is perhaps the most dreaded. There is no denying that cancer of the lungs is one of the most serious forms of the ailment, but that does not mean that it cannot be treated and that patients cannot go on to live normal lives. The key to successful lung cancer treatment lies in identifying the condition early and starting treatment without delay. Cancer is a disease that can spread through the body quickly so the earlier it is diagnosed, the less damage it does and better are the chances of recovery.
Knowing the stages of lung cancer makes it easier to understand how the condition develops. There are 2 types of lung cancer - non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).
The TNM system is often used to classify the stages of NSCLC:
- T – The size of the main tumour and how much it has spread to other nearby organs/tissue
- N – nodes: Has the cancer metastasized to the lymph nodes?
- M - metastasis: Has the disease metastasized to organs that are far away?
If cough is present and it causes the production of sputum, then testing the sputum may reveal the presence of lung cancer cells.
The 6 stages are:
- The Occult Stage: When the presence of cancer is difficult to detect but mucus from the lungs or cells taken from the airway may show the presence of cancer cells.
- Stage 0: The tumor is very small and the cells have not spread deep into the lung tissue.
- Stage 1: The cancer is in the lung tissue but has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 2: The disease may have reached the lymph nodes near the lungs.
- Stage 3: The disease has spread deep into the lymph nodes and reached the middle of the chest.
- Stage 4: The cancer has spread through the body and is affecting the brain, liver, bones and other parts of the body.
SCLC is typically divided into 2 stages:
- Limited Stage: In this stage, the cancer is present in only one area of the chest.
- Extensive Stage: In this stage, the cancer has spread to both lungs and may have metastasized to the lymph nodes, bones and tissue.
Lung cancer is a matter of major concern. Regular check-ups are essential in catching the condition early which is when treatment is the most successful and recovery the most complete. A person’s chances of developing cancer are dependent on various factors including smoking, recreational drug use, genetics, lifestyle, other health conditions, etc. The right way to protect yourself from this disease is to contact the best oncologist in Pondicherry (or wherever you live) and get tested for the condition. Once you are clear, the doctor will recommend lifestyle changes that may increase your level of resistance and he will also inform you about future checkups.