What is lung adenocarcinoma?
Lung adenocarcinoma is a type of non-small cell lung cancer that makes up 40% of all lung cancer diagnoses.
This type of lung cancer forms in the small airways and along the outer edges of the lungs. Lung adenocarcinoma is found in people who smoke, but it is also the type of lung cancer found in people who do not have a history of smoking. This slow-growing cancer affects women more often than men.
Causes of lung adenocarcinoma
As with most other types of cancer, the exact causes of lung adenocarcinoma are unknown.
The quality of the air you breathe and any toxic substances in the air have been found to play a role. That's why smoking cigarettes is often listed as a cause, breathing in these harmful substances causes DNA damage that leads to cancer.
Risk factors for lung adenocarcinoma
Genetics can play a role in the risk of developing this type of lung cancer. But, most of the risk factors are due to substances found in the environment.
If you've been exposed to these substances, you are at an increased risk for developing lung adenocarcinoma:
- Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke
- Radon gas
- Gas and diesel exhaust
- Coal products
- Industrial substances
- Air pollution
Medical conditions, like tuberculosis, that affect the lungs also put people at risk. These can scar the lung tissue to make it easier for cancer to develop.
Symptoms of lung adenocarcinoma
Lung adenocarcinoma has many of the same symptoms as other types of lung cancer. Most of the obvious signs affect your breathing. You might experience other symptoms as the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
Common symptoms include:
- Cough that doesn't go away
- Wet cough with blood or mucus
- Trouble breathing
- Pain in the chest
- Pain when swallowing
Those suffering from lung adenocarcinoma might also lose their appetites or lose weight without trying.
Diagnosis of lung adenocarcinoma
Before ordering any tests for lung cancer, your doctor will do an exam and get your medical history. The doctor will ask about tobacco use and if you've been exposed to any of the substances that put you at risk.
The next step is imaging tests, like x-rays and MRIs, to get a clearer view of your lungs.
If your doctor suspects lung cancer, you'll need additional tests. One test might be to check mucus from your lungs for cancer cells. The only way to get an accurate diagnosis is with a sample. Your doctor will take a small piece of lung tissue and send it to the lab for a biopsy. With all of these steps, doctors can identify the cancer and how far it has progressed.
Treatment for lung adenocarcinoma
If the lung cancer hasn't spread to other parts of the body, surgery is the most common treatment option.
There are three different types of lung surgeries to consider. The first is to remove only a small portion of the lung that contains the cancer cells. The next is to remove one lobe of the lung. The last is to remove an entire lung. Doctors may also remove the lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread.
Not all patients are healthy enough for surgery. In these instances, doctors may battle the cancer through radiation treatments or chemotherapy.
Recovery from lung adenocarcinoma
The recovery time after surgery for lung adenocarcinoma varies from patient to patient.
It might only take a couple of weeks to start feeling normal again, or it could take several months. If your lungs are in good condition, you can expect to get back to your normal activities once you've healed.
You'll have follow-up visits with your doctor to ensure that your lungs stay in good health and the cancer does not come back.