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Stage IV Lung Cancer With Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) Rearrangement

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What Is Stage IV Lung Cancer With Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) Rearrangement?

This type of lung cancer is rare, and it often happens to people who aren't smokers. Although there isn't a cure, there are treatments for it that can slow down your cancer and help you feel better.

"Stage IV" means that the cancer has spread beyond the lung where it started. It may be in your other lung, too, or in the fluid around your lungs, or somewhere else in your body.

The "ALK rearrangement" part of the name is about a gene called ALK. If you have this type of lung cancer, your ALK gene got rearranged and joined with another gene. This causes cancer cells to grow and spread.

Causes

Doctors aren't sure what causes this disease. But people who get it tend to be younger than most lung cancer patients. Many people who get it don't smoke and never have.

Symptoms

Like other types of lung cancer, the symptoms can include:

  • Coughing that lasts or gets worse
  • Chest pain that often hurts more with coughing, laughing, or deep breaths
  • Hoarseness or voice changes
  • Harsh, raspy sounds when you breathe
  • Wheezing
  • Weight loss, little appetite
  • Coughing up blood or mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Lasting lung problems, like bronchitis or pneumonia

If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, your symptoms may include:

  • Bone pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or balance issues
  • Numbness or weakness in an arm or leg
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)

Getting a Diagnosis

First, your doctor will talk with you so that he understands what's been going on. He'll ask questions like these:

  • When did you first notice problems?
  • How have you been feeling?
  • Are you coughing or wheezing?
  • Does anything make your symptoms better or worse?
  • Do you, or did you, smoke?
  • Has anyone in your family had lung cancer?

To learn more, your doctor may give you tests, including:

  • Blood tests
  • X-ray
  • CT scan: This can show lung problems and swelling of the arteries.
  • MRI: This scan helps show blood flow and can help locate cancer growths.
  • PET scan: This imaging test uses radioactive material to look for signs of cancer.
  • Sputum test: It checks for cancer cells in the mucus you cough up.
  • Bronchoscopy: It looks at your airway with an instrument called a bronchoscope.
  • Ultrasound: This type of test uses sound waves to create a picture of what’s happening inside you.
  • Thoracoscopy: This scan looks at the lungs using a tiny camera.
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