Lung cancer was once considered a man’s disease. However lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women. In USA, it kills more women each year than breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer combined. During the time period 1991-2005 in USA, number of women diagnosed with lung cancer increased by 0.5% each year whereas those in men reduced.
Even though smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer in women as well, a significant proportion of women patients are never smokers. Other causes as in men could be exposure to secondhand smoke, radon or air pollution; tuberculosis; genetic predisposition, etc. Recent research has suggested some role of HPV (human papilloma virus) and estrogen hormone as well in development of lung cancer. Furthermore, women seem more susceptible to carcinogens in cigarettes and they may develop lung cancer after fewer years of smoking.
Lung cancer in women behaves biologically and clinically different from that in men. It occurs at slightly younger age than men. Adenocarcinoma is the commonest type of lung cancer in women. Patients often complain of shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, backache or just fatigue and unexplained weight loss.
Treatment depends upon stage of disease at diagnosis. It is treated with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy or targeted therapies (in form of tablets & capsules too!) as appropriate. Targeted therapies are chosen to treat lung cancer based on some molecular studies of tumor tissue.
Women can reduce their chances of getting lung cancer by: quitting smoking, avoiding passive smoking, eating healthy diet and exercising daily. Get yourself checked if you have any of suspicious symptoms as named above. Think positive and take care.