In 2004, lung cancer claimed over 170,000 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control statistics. That made lung cancer the deadliest of all cancers. Unfortunately, the diagnosis of lung cancer often comes at later stages when it has significantly developed. This article will discuss what happens during the later stages and its comparison to Advanced Emphysema.
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Emphysema is a disease of the lungs that causes chronic shortness of breath. This happens because the lungs have somehow lost their elasticity and capacity to properly expand enough to get sufficient oxygen. Alveoli, the hollow cavities in the lungs that exchange gasses with the blood, are incapacitated due to the destruction of their supporting structures. The capillaries that feed the alveoli are also compromised with emphysema.
When lung cancer strikes a person, it means that abnormal cells have made their way into the lungs and have begun destroying normal cells. These cancer cells divert nutrients and oxygen from healthy lung tissue, diminishing the lung’s capacity to function.
Stage 4 Comparisons
In advanced emphysema, also known as stage 4 emphysema, the elasticity of the lungs is so damaged that it is nearly irreversible. Much energy is spent just breathing normally. Emphysema develops gradually, so an undiagnosed patient could reach this stage with little to no warning. When stage 4 is reached, the lung is operating at 30 per cent capacity.
Lung cancer progresses through stages but is often not diagnosed until it has reached stage 2, where the tumour has begun to destroy surrounding lung tissue and has probably entered the lung’s lymph nodes. It is largely treatable even through stage 3, where lung cancer has spread to other organs. However, at stage 4, most lung cancer is considered incurable. Tumours on the chest make every breath painful and can even cause bone breakage. Cancerous tumours on major arteries cause significant swelling in the chest, neck and head areas. When the cancer spreads to other body parts like the throat, unassisted breathing is nearly impossible.
85 per cent of lung cancer patients are smokers. Smokers inhale dozens of carcinogens, cancer-causing chemicals, with each cigarette. The longer the lungs are exposed to cigarette smoke, the greater chance of cancerous cell development. The same is true with emphysema. Many who have stage 4 emphysema develop it from years of heavy smoking, hence the gradual development in the lungs. If emphysema is caught at early stages, smokers who quit can prevent themselves from reaching stage 4. For some patients, emphysema is the result of damage from stage 4 cancer.
In stage 4 lung cancer, most treatments are geared towards easing the symptoms. Chemotherapy may slow down cell growth and expansion. When followed with radiation therapy and surgery, the life expectancy of a patient can increase. Sometimes tumours can be removed with lasers or by frozen if they aren't too close to vital organs.
Advanced emphysema treatment can be drastic. It may include a lung transplant if the lung is too damaged to function. Special draining may also have to be done to remove fluids from the lung. With postural drainage, a patient has to inhale an aerosol medication and then position himself with his chest above his head so that certain lung areas can drain. Chest percussion includes a simultaneous clapping of the chest and back to force phlegm from the lungs. Oxygen therapy may also be necessary since the lungs operate at a low capacity in advanced emphysema.
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