Most people who suffer from chest pains automatically think they may have a problem with the heart. However, not only are chest pains an indication of heart disease (although a prime factor), but also the possibility that lung cancer may be developing (25% of lung cancer patients experience chest pains [smoking is the most common cause of chest pain occurrence, with lung cancer the second – other causes may include: second-hand smoke and asbestos dust]).
Chest Pains – associated with lung cancer are usually caused by the development of small cell lung cancer – SCLC (the less common, more aggressive lung cancer that makes-up for between 10% – 15% of all diagnosed lung cancer cases). SCLC, is a fast growing (quick metastasis [spread throughout the body]) form of lung cancer that is usually diagnosed while at a late stage (60% – 70% of patients diagnosed with SCLC are at stage III – IV of the disease making it not just difficult to treat, but also offering a poor patient prognosis [average 5-year life-expectancy]).
*Other symptoms associated with SCLC may include: coughing/wheezing, dysphonia (unnatural deep/rough quality of voice), pains in the abdomen, and shortness of breath.
Pains are commonly experienced due to SCLC starting at the center of the chest. Inflammation (due to infections in/surrounding the lungs), irritation of the lung lining, chest pressure (due to nerve inflammation/tumor), and strained muscles (due to persistent coughing), may all have a bearing on why chest pains are prevalent. However, SCLC can quickly metastasize to other regions of the body too. For example: the lymph-nodes, the bones, the liver, and the brain can all quickly become affected by the disease.
Diagnosis – will usually be in the form of a physical exam, followed by a chest X-ray, a bronchoscopy (a trachea inspection), a CAT scan of the abdomen, brain, and chest, a PET scan (a chest cancer inspection), a sputum cytology (microscopic detection for lung cancer through mucous samples, and a thoracoscopy (incisions are made through the ribs to inspect the lungs).
Treatment – will not usually include surgery as a first option, rather: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and clinical trial treatments (new medicines, combinations, and therapies). Early stage diagnosis will give a patient a better prognosis; however, because this is usually (late stage diagnosis of SCLC is more common), the prognosis of a patient can only be assumed to be poor (individual specifics will have a bearing on any eventual patient out-come).
Note: The order which both diagnosis and treatment plans may be carried-out will depend on the specifics to the case (staging, etc.), and the doctors own recommendations (not necessarily in the orders given, and not all will be used).