Respiratory Cancer

What is respiratory cancer?

Respiratory cancer can originate in the larynx (laryngeal cancer), trachea, bronchi, or lungs. Each one of these cancers occurs when alterations in the cells cause abnormal cell growth and division. This causes cancer cells to multiply rapidly and possibly form a malignant (cancerous) tumor or mass. The fast-paced abnormal cell growth has the potential to spread the cancer to other parts of the body (metastasis). 
 
Laryngeal cancer originates in the lower part of the throat, in either the larynx or the hypopharynx. The larynx is your voice-box. It is located above the windpipe (trachea), and contains your vocal cords. It also makes sure food and liquids don’t get into your trachea. It is divided into three sections; the supraglottis, the glottis, and the subglottis. The supraglottis is above the vocal cords, the glottis contains the vocal cords, and the subglottis is below the vocal cords.
 
Anatomy of the trachea, bronchi, and lungs: The lungs are two spongy organs that are located in the chest. The lungs play a key role in breathing and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. When you breathe in air from your nose or mouth it goes through your windpipe (trachea) which then divides into tubes called bronchi. The bronchi divide into a smaller network of tube called bronchioles once they enter the lungs. Attached to the bronchioles are small air sacs called alveoli. Carbon dioxide and oxygen are exchanged at the alveolar level. Oxygen is absorbed into your bloodstream, while carbon dioxide is absorbed by the alveoli in order to be exhaled back into the air. 
 
Lung cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the lungs. People who smoke are at the greatest risk for developing lung cancer.
 
There are three different types of lung cancer:
 
  • Non-small cell lung cancer: the most common type of lung cancer. It is usually more slow-growing than small cell lung cancer. There are 3 different subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer that are classified based on the type of cells the cancer started from:
  • Adenocarcinoma: usually occurs in mucus-secreting cells in the outer parts of the lung. This is the most common type of lung cancer in smokers and non-smokers. 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: starts in the squamous cells. Squamous cells line the inner airways of the lungs. This type tends to be located more centrally in one of the main airway tubes (bronchi).
  • Large cell carcinoma: can occur in any part of the lung and tends to spread quickly. It is also harder to treat. It often starts toward the lung’s surface. 
  • Small cell lung cancer: less common and harder to treat than non-small cell lung cancer. It spreads quickly and is often advanced by the time it is diagnosed. This type mostly occurs in smokers.
  • Lung carcinoid tumor: made up of cells called neuroendocrine cells. These cells play a role in controlling air and blood flow as well as the growth of other lung cells.  Lung carcinoid tumors are slow-growing and not very common. 
 
 
Risk factors
 
  • Smoking
  • Secondhand smoke exposure
  • Radon gas exposure
  • Exposure to carcinogens (cancer causing substances) such as asbestos, inhaled chemicals, or diesel exhaust 
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • Air pollution
  • Prior radiation therapy to lungs
  • Taking beta carotene supplements (especially if you are a smoker)
  • Age (two out of three people diagnosed with lung cancer are older than 65)
  • Poor nutrition

 

 
 
Diagnosis 
Some tests your doctor may do to diagnose respiratory cancer include:
 
  • Imaging tests: X-ray, MRI, or computerized tomography (CT) scan may be done to look for any abnormal masses, tumors, or lesions in the lungs
  • Sputum cytology: Sputum is the mucus that you bring up when you have a cough. Sputum cytology involves looking at a sputum sample under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells present. 
  • Biopsy (tissue sample): A sample of lung tissue is removed to be looked at for the presence of cancer cells. One way that this tissue sample may be obtained is through a bronchoscopy. During a bronchoscopy, a scope is placed down your throat into your lungs to examine them. Biopsies can also be obtained using a needle while obtaining an X-ray or CT. 
  • Direct (flexible) laryngoscopy: This test can be used to diagnose laryngeal cancer. During this procedure, a scope is inserted into the nose or mouth to look at the larynx. An indirect laryngoscopy involves using small mirrors to look at the larynx.
     
 
 
Staging lung cancer
Lung cancer is staged based on how far the disease has progressed:
 
  • Stage I: the tumor is usually smaller than 2 inches and the cancer is only in the lungs. 
  • Stage II: the cancer could have possibly spread to nearby lymph nodes and the tumor is bigger than 2 inches. The tumor could also be small but involve nearby organs or structures. 
  • Stage III: the tumor is large and has involved nearby organs or the tumor is smaller but the cancer has spread to lymph nodes that are far away from the lungs.
  • Stage IV: the cancer has spread to the other lung or to other parts of the body that are far from its original location. 
 
 
Treatment for respiratory cancer is usually decided based upon the stage of the cancer, your overall health, and if the cancer has spread. Some treatment methods for lung cancer include:
 
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Clinical trials
  • Palliative care
  • Surgery
  • Photodynamic therapy 
 
 
 
# RESPIRATORY CANCER BY THE NUMBERS #
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States (in men and women)
  • Smoking accounts for about 90% of cases of lung cancer 
  • 10-15% of all lung cancers are small cell lung cancers
  • 1 in 14 men and women will be diagnosed with lung cancer
  • More than one million cases of lung cancer are diagnosed yearly worldwide
  • 70 years old is the most common age to be diagnosed with lung cancer
  • About 60% of laryngeal cancers start in the glottis
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 13,360 new cases of laryngeal cancer in 2017
 
about respiratory cancer
 
 

Sources:
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  • “Lung Cancer” Cleveland Clinic, 23 Dec. 2014. Web. 7 Aug. 2017.
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  • “What Is Small Cell Lung Cancer?” American Cancer Society, 16 May. 2016. Web. 07 Aug. 2017.  
  • “What Are Lung Carcinoid Tumors?” American Cancer Society, 24 Feb. 2016. Web. 07 Aug. 2017.  
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  • “Lung Cancer Diagnosing.” John’s Hopkins Medicine. John’s Hopkins Medicine Health Library, n.d. Web. 02 Aug. 2017. 
  • “Lung Cancer Treatment.” John’s Hopkins Medicine. John’s Hopkins Medicine Health Library, n.d. Web. 02 Aug. 2017. 
  • “What Are Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers?” American Cancer Society, 08 Aug. 2016. Web. 07 Aug. 2017.  
  • “Tracheal Cancer.” Mount Sinai Hospital. Mount Sinai Hospital Head and Neck Institute, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.
  • “What Are the Risk Factors for Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers?” American Cancer Society, 08 Aug. 2016. Web. 07 Aug. 2017.  
  • “How are Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers Diagnosed?” American Cancer Society, 08 Aug. 2016. Web. 07 Aug. 2017.  
  • “What are the Key Statistics About Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers?” American Cancer Society, 05 Jan. 2017. Web. 07 Aug. 2017.  

 

 

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