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Does lung cancer spread quickly?

Understanding the molecular mechanism behind any disease is very difficult, especially in the case of cancer. This is because, like every person, even cancer is different in every case even if it is of the same type and at the same stage. This happens because cancer may behave differently at the molecular level. The growth or spread of the cancer is multifactorial; that is, it depends on several factors, not just one factor. Knowing the rate at which cancer is spreading is very important for healthcare professionals to design an appropriate treatment plan for you. Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in India. According to a study, it is estimated that the number of lung cancer cases may be as high as 81,219 cases among males and 30,109 cases in females by 2025. With such high prevalence, it has become more important to know about the spread of lung cancer so that the doctor may decide whether they want to wait for a month before treatment or start the treatment immediately. In this article, let us talk about how fast lung cancer spreads and the factors that determine how quickly lung cancer spreads. Various stages of lung cancer

How do lung cancer cells grow?

The functioning and growth of a cancerous lung’s cells are very different from that of a normal lung cell. A series of mutations in the genes that control the growth of the normal lung cell gives rise to a cancerous cell. These genetic mutations in the lung cell do not occur at once; instead, the mutations keep adding up as the cell divides into billions. Thus, it becomes difficult to diagnose lung cancer at an early stage, even after a chest X-ray.

How is the growth of cancer detected?

To understand the growth of lung cancer cells, you must understand the working of the cancer cells as well. Certain values like growth fraction, specific growth rate, and doubling time determine the growth of lung cancer cells.

Growth fraction

The estimated growth of the cancerous cells is based on exponential growth; that is, one cell divides into two, two into four, four into eight, and so on. But is this the case with all cells? No, in reality, not all cells divide at the same rate or time. This is known as growth fractions. Thus, different types of cancer have different growth fractions. For example, the growth fraction rate of childhood leukaemia is very high; that is, many cells divide at a specific time, whereas certain cancers like breast cancer have a low growth fraction. This is not all; a specific type of cancer can also have different growth rates during different stages. This happens because the mutations keep on changing the cancerous cells. Thus, sometimes cancer may not respond to the treatment that it used to respond to well earlier, or the growth of the tumor may suddenly increase at a certain point.

Doubling time

Doubling time, as the word suggests, refers to the amount of time a tumor may take to double its size. How fast lung cancer cells grow is also known as proliferation. Although doubling time tells you how fast your cancer cells will grow, it is also important to know that there is no simple formula that can help you estimate the growth of cancer cells; that is, your estimated true growth rate may be significantly different from the actual growth rate of the cells.

The doubling of a lung tumor can be estimated in two ways: volume and metabolic doubling time.

Specific growth rate

Specific growth rate refers to the percentage change in the tumors volume over time. The researchers use both specific growth rates and doubling time to know how fast a tumor cell is growing. This is because doubling time alone may give faster or slower results than the growth of cancer cells.

Also read : Lung Cancer in young adults

What are the factors that affect growth rate?

The growth of different cancers is different and multifactorial. Following are the various factors that might affect the growth of lung cancer cells.

  • Type of lung cancer
  • The subtype of lung cancer
  • Frequency of smoking
  • Gender
  • The diagnostic technique used for lung tumors

Does lung cancer spread fast?

Yes, lung cancer is a fast-spreading cancer. On average, the size of lung cancer may double in around 4-5 months. However, as discussed earlier, the doubling time of lung cancer can be different in different patients and at different stages. Therefore, if you are at risk of developing lung cancer, make sure that you get a regular screening for lung cancer done to get it diagnosed early. An early diagnosis of lung cancer can help in the effective treatment of lung cancer.

At the end

Lung cancer is very common in India, in both males and females. It is one of the fastest-growing and spreading cancers. Estimating the growth of lung cancer and the time it will double itself is very important for the doctor to provide effective treatment. The growth of lung cancer cells helps them determine whether or not they can wait before giving appropriate treatment. This is because tumors at an early stage can get treated through targeted therapy alone. But your doctor can decide your treatment only when he knows how much time your tumor will double itself. So, get a lung cancer screening done at regular intervals that can facilitate the diagnosis of cancer at an early stage and its effective treatment.

People also ask

1. What are the criteria for lung cancer screening?

The criteria that you need to fulfill to get lung cancer screening done are:

  • You must be aged between 50-80 years
  • Have a history of smoking for the past 20 years
  • If you are a smoker or have quit smoking within 15 years
  • You are healthy to bear the lung cancer treatment if diagnosed positive for it.

2. Which type of lung cancer spreads more quickly?

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) spreads faster than non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

3. Where does lung cancer usually spread?

Some common sites where lung cancer cells can spread during early stages include your bones, brain, liver, and the adrenal gland in your kidney.

4. How will I know if my lung cancer is spreading to my bones?

Certain symptoms you may experience if your lung cancer reaches your bones are frequent fractures, decreased alertness, pain in bones, and constipation.

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