Heavy smokers with knee arthritis may be experiencing an early sign of a difficult to-treat lung cancer, research shows.

The Study

Researchers at Prato Hospital in Italy reviewed the case files of 296 patients with inflammation in one knee between 2000 and 2005.

In just under 2% of these patients, the mild knee arthritis was accompanied by non-small cell lung cancer. All patients were middle-aged men who had been heavy smokers for most of their lives. Once the cancer tissue was surgically removed, the knee pain cleared up as well.

Diagnosis And Treatment

According to the American Cancer Society, about 85% of all lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer. Unless it is caught early, this type of lung cancer is difficult to treat. It spreads to the bones in one in five cases and is well advanced by the time it is diagnosed in half of all cases.

The researchers noted that early warning signs such as knee pain could lead to earlier diagnosis and more successful treatments.

Nonsmokers Still at Risk For Lung Cancer

About 20% of lung cancer cases in women H occur in nonsmokers. Only 8% of cases in men are nonsmokers.

Possible reason: Secondhand smoke exposure is the biggest risk factor among people who have never smoked. It is likely that more women nonsmokers live with men who smoke than men nonsmokers live with women who smoke.

Better Lung Cancer Treatment

A recent study followed 286 patients (ages 18 to 75) who received chemotherapy for small-cell lung cancer (an aggressive form that often spreads to the brain). Those who received radiation to the brain were 15% less likely to develop cancerous tumors in the brain one year later than those who received chemotherapy alone.

Self-defense: If you have small-cell lung cancer that has responded to initial treatment with chemotherapy, ask your doctor if radiation to the brain should be part of your overall treatment plan.

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