Impact of Science on Lung Cancer Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate of all the cancers in the United States. If you smoke you are more likely to get lung cancer. Smoking kills the cells that surround the inside of your lungs because cigarette smoke is full of carcinogens (things that cause cancer). The more you are exposed to cigarette smoke the more irregular your cells act and the more likely cancer will grow.
You can also get cancer from asbestos, radon exposure, genetics, and environmental factors. But the most common reason is smoking. You can even get cancer if you have never smoked in your life. In every cell is DNA which is like the cell’s recipe on how to perform functions and make more cells. Cancer is caused when a mistake happens in the DNA and it gets ‘mutated’. Without the proper recipe the cell does not do its job and keeps making more defective cells.
More and more cells begin to take over the lungs until there is nothing left. Lung cancer is a problem for anyone who is affected. The way lung cancer is treated depends on which type of lung cancer it is and how much it has advanced. There are two types of lung cancer; small and non-small.
There are three types of non-small lung cancer but they are all put together because the ways you fight them are similar. Adenocarcinoma is usually found in non-smokers. Adenocarcinoma starts in cells that would release fluids. Another type is squamous cell carcinoma. The squamous cell carcinoma is found in squamous cells, which cover the inside of airways.
Squamous cells carcinoma is they type of cancer you would get if you are/were a smoker. The last type is undifferentiated carcinoma (large cell carcinomas) it can grow anywhere in the lungs and spreads very quickly. The ways you can fight cancer are: surgery, where you actually remove the tumors by hand, targeted therapy, where you use drugs to slow down the growth of tumors, radiation therapy, where a really powerful energy rays are used to kill the tumors, or chemotherapy, which uses special medicine to minimize the size of the tumors. Chemotherapy works by targeting fast growing cells and kills them, which is why your hair and nails fall out. Before the early 20th century lung cancer was actually really rare and all tumors were treated the same.
In 1929 Fritz Lickint wrote a paper about how smoking was linked to lung cancer which started the ‘antitobacco’ movement in Germany. It wasn’t until 1962 that the scientists decided that it was better to use chemotherapy on small cell lung cancer than surgery. In 1969 a book was published which talked about the link between smoking, asbestos, air pollution, nickel, chromium and lung cancer. In the 1950s it was proved that smoking was the cause of lung cancer but people liked cigarettes so much that they just said it wasn’t true. During World War II in the US Americans were experimenting with other chemicals similar to mustard gas to make better components for war. While doing so they found a component called nitrogen mustard which cured cancer in the lymph nodes. Not long after the discovery of nitrogen mustard Sidney Farber made another compound called aminopterin which gave children with leukemia remissions by damaging the part of deoxyribonucleic acid which told the cell how to multiply.
That drug was the ancestor of methotrexate which is now used all over the world to cure cancer. From there researchers moved on to discover and refine chemotherapy. But even after years of refinement and experiment there is a 55% chance of living five years if the disease stays in the lungs and 4% chance of living five years if the cancer spreads. So how can we improve it? How do we make it a 100% chance that we will live our whole lives? Well, to begin with new medication is being tested every day, the death rate decreases by 2.3 percent every year, and people are becoming more aware about the risk of smoking. But there is no actual ‘answer’. People are still looking for the cure and survivors are extremely lucky. I believe that in a hundred years our technology will have advanced enough that cancer won’t be too big of a problem.