stage 4 lung cancer - Overview, Facts, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, etc.
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STAGE 4 LUNG CANCER (ALK)

Patients diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer (alk) are already in the late or advanced stage of the disease. In this stage of cancer, the cancer cells which have originated in the lungs have already spread to other parts of the body such as the heart, liver, brain, and other organs. Stage 4 lung cancer is also known as metastatic lung cancer. It may be found on the lymph nodes and multiple organs, but it spreads commonly to the bones, liver and/or brain. When metastatic tumors from the lung are found in other parts of the body, this may still be considered as lung cancer. When cancer progresses to its extensive stage, it spreads to the other parts of the body through the lymph system or bloodstream.

Whenever cancer cells from the lung break away from a tumor and travel through the other parts of the body through the lymph or blood, metastasis occurs. This turns into metastatic lung cancer. Unfortunately, patients receiving a diagnosis of lung cancer are already in stage 4, since symptoms do not develop unless cancer has metastasized.

In about one out of 25 non-small cell lung cancer patients, ALK-positive (anaplastic lymphoma kinase positive or ALK+) lung cancer may be present. Patients 55 years old and below who have never smoked have the highest probability of being diagnosed as ALK+.

Abnormal and uncontrolled growth of the lung cells is caused by ALK mutation, which is a genetic aberration of your lung cell’s DNA. As these cells exhibit uncontrolled mitosis, they can metastasize to other parts of the body.

TYPES

Physicians categorize lung cancer into two major types based on the micrograph of the cells after a biopsy has been performed. Your physician will tailor your treatment options based on the type of lung cancer that you have.

The two major types of lung cancer are:

Small cell lung cancer. This is exclusive to chain smokers and has a lesser incidence than non-small cell lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer. This is a big term for a myriad of lung cancers that behave similarly.

 

SYMPTOMS

Lung cancer commonly would not exhibit symptoms and signs in its earliest stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer normally manifest themselves only while the disease is in its late stage.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may also include:

  • Anew cough that does not improve
  • Coughing up blood, even a small quantity
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest ache
  • Hoarseness
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Bone aches
  • Headache

DIAGNOSIS

If your doctor suspects that you might have lung cancer, he/she can order diagnostics to locate the cancer cells and perform differential diagnosis.

Diagnostics may include:

Imaging tests. X-rays may reveal a mass or nodule; however, higher imaging modalities such as a CT scan can expose minute lesions that go undetected on an X-ray

Sputum cytology. Obtaining a micrograph of the sputum which may contain cancer cells can sometimes confirm the presence of lung cancer cells.

Biopsy. Sample tissue is obtained and is examined by a pathologist.

TREATMENT

The gold standard for the treatment of stage 4 lung cancer is palliative care. However, there are treatment options to address the symptoms of cancer and to improve the quality of life of the patient. These include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Targeted therapy

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