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Bronchial cancer is a form of lung cancer that primarily affects the bronchial tubes. The bronchial tubes, also referred to as bronchi, are thin passages that connect the windpipe to the lungs and facilitate the inhalation of oxygen and the exhalation of carbon dioxide. The cancer typically develops as a tumor on the bronchi, but can extend to other areas of the body and make the affected areas unable to function properly.
One of the first symptoms of this type of cancer is a persistent cough. As the cancerous tumors grow on the bronchi, they can cause a person to begin coughing up blood and mucus. Since the bronchi are a large part of the respiratory process, cancer can result in shortness of breath because the tumors may cause a partial obstruction between the windpipe and lungs.
Bronchial cancer does not have a completely proven cause. Smoking cigarettes or being exposed to smoke for extended periods of time may greatly increase a person’s risk of developing cancerous bronchi tumors. People who have never smoked or been around smokers can still develop this type of cancer in rare cases, although the exact reason why is not known.
If the cancer is treated when it is in its beginning stages of formation, a person is less likely to suffer any long-term consequences. The first type of treatment is typically surgery, where a surgeon makes an incision and completely removes the cancerous growths on the bronchial tubes. If the cancer appears to be extensive or has started to spread to other internal organs, radiation therapy is generally recommended to reduce the tumors. Radiation therapy uses a machine to deliver waves of energy into the body to destroy the cancer cells. It may also be combined with chemotherapy, drugs that help kill cancer cells.
Even with treatment, bronchial cancer can return. To ensure that this does not happen, a medical professional will typically advise a patient to have frequent checkup appointments, especially within the first two to five years afterward, so the bronchial tubes can be closely observed. If a person with the condition does not change his or her habits and keeps smoking or exposing him- or herself to other people’s smoke, the cancer is likely to return. When bronchi tumors grow back, it can be more difficult to completely treat them. If the cancer keeps growing on the bronchi and is not treated, the patient may die in less than a year.