Lung cancer kills more people every year than any other kind of cancer, and your chances of dying from it are now higher than ever – even if you’re not a smoker. Smoking is the cause of around 90% cases of lung cancer. The number of women diagnosed with lung cancer is increasing, but the cause is unknown. Researchers say, passive smoking may be linked to it
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is a growth in the tissue of the lungs. Part of the lung tissue, usually the lining of the bronchial passage, grows out of control because of defect in one or more genes where the cell doesn’t recognise the signals to stop growing.
There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell, and non-small cell.
Small-cell accounts for around 15% of lung cancers and tends to start in the middle of the lungs.
Non-small cell makes up around 75%-80% of lung cancers, and mainly affects the cells lining the tubes into the lungs.
Lung cancer is difficult to spot as it has vague symptoms, and no proper screening scheme has been developed. This means it is often not detected until it is well advanced. Often the sufferer will believe they just have a bad cough because the symptoms are due to a blocking of the airways, the patient gets cough, or shortness of breath, or pain. The other sign is weight loss. Lung cancer can make people feel unwell, and a patient can start losing weight.
Though if coughing continues, becomes painful or affects the breathing that’s a sign to see a doctor. A persistent cough, or coughing up blood is something that is really important to have investigated, or breathlessness that is new or persistent, or any chest pain.
Who is affected?
Smoking is the cause of around 90% of cases of lung cancer. The number of women diagnosed with lung cancer is increasing with the rise of smoking among women. It is not known why non-smoking women contract lung cancer, although ongoing researches is trying and work this out so that more can be done to treat it.
Not just smokers
There is a strong link between lung cancer and smoking, but recent research has discovered that it could be related to a particular genetic mutation. Researchers don’t know why it happens. It may have to do with exposure to asbestos, carbon or nickel, and passive smoking.
The mortality rate for lung cancer sufferers is high largely due to it not getting diagnosed early enough. It has vague symptoms, such as a persistent cough and shortness of breath as well as coughing up blood. For those who have lung cancer that is confined to the lungs, the average survival period is 18-24 months.
Lung cancer is currently treated with chemotherapy, surgery or radiotherapy, or a combination of these, but even if treatment is successful, the cancer often returns. Even if the cancer is small enough to be operated on, within five years most patients relapse. Just 14% of lung cancer sufferers are expected to live five years beyond diagnosis. Even for those diagnosed with limited lung cancer, the average survival period is 18-24 months. Small-cell lung cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy combined with radiotherapy. If non-small cell lung cancer is confined to a part of the lung, it can be removed through surgery.
What can be done?
The number one way to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer is not to smoke. The big idea is an all-out attack to reduce smoking. This will have the most impact. If you work in an environment where you’re exposed to carcinogenic chemicals, or second-hand smoke or asbestos, it’s advised you minimise your exposure, and use protective clothing.