Lung Cancer is an abnormal growth of the tissues in the windpipe, main airway or lungs. It is listed as the commonest type of cancer worldwide in 2018, though overtaken by breast cancer in 2020. Regardless, lung cancer registers as the leading cause of death in 2020. In this article, we share the symptoms of lung cancer and explain how you could be at risk of the condition. Smoking is the biggest risk but there are other factors that can contribute. Learn more ...
What's On This Page:
How Common is Lung Cancer?
Here are a few recent stats:
- 3rd most Common Cancer in UK
- 3rd most common cancer in Men – Nigeria
- Kills more people in the US than Breast and Colorectal Cancer - together.
Around the world, we estimate that 19.3 million new cancer cases happened in 2020.
In that same year, there were almost 10.0 million cancer deaths.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a large percent of these deaths occur in countries with weak health care systems around the world (using the GLOBOCAN 2020 estimates of cancer incidence and mortality).
The burden is greatest in such countries which also struggle with infectious diseases and have poor systems to cope with cancer care - screening and monitoring).
Informing people about the symptoms to look for and how they could be at risk can help with early diagnosis rather than detecting the condition at very late stages when little can be done to save life.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
The Most Common Lung Cancer Symptoms of are:
• Having a cough most of the time
• If there is a change in a cough you have had for a long time - it may sound different; or be painful when you cough
• Becoming out of breath doing the things you used to do without a problem
• Coughing up phlegm (sputum) with blood in it
•An ache or pain in the chest or shoulder
• Chest infections that keep coming back or a chest infection that doesn't get better
• Losing your appetite, feeling tired all the time (fatigue) or losing weight
Therefore, developing any of these symptoms should prompt you seek medical attention urgently for tests.
What You Should Know - Lung Cancer Risks
•Smoking tobacco is the biggest cause of lung cancer in most parts of the world
•Both smokers and breathing in other people’s cigarette smoke.
•Even light or occasional smoking increases the risk of lung cancer.
•But your risk increases more the longer you smoke and the more you smoke. The sooner you stop, the better.
2. Environment/Exposure (Work)
Some substances increase the risk of lung cancer.
These include asbestos, silica, and diesel exhaust. People can be exposed to these through their work.
• Asbestos was used in shipbuilding and the construction industry in the 1960’s.
Although these substances are banned in many countries, they can still pose a risk in older buildings. Therefore they come under very tight regulation in countries like UK.
In other countries, regulation is poor so there is still a great risk of illness from Asbestos exposure that people may be ignorant about. There are strict laws about work that involves asbestos: for example, when working in or repairing structures containing asbestos. Smoking increases the risk of disease from asbestos exposure.
•Silica is a substance used in some construction and material industries such as glass making and bricklaying. People who have worked as bricklayers can have a slightly increased risk of lung cancer. It can cause a condition known as silicosis, which increases the risk of lung cancer.
•Diesel engine exhaust fume exposure increases the risk of lung cancer. So, people who are regularly exposed to exhaust fumes through their jobs have a higher risk of developing lung cancer. This includes professional drivers and mechanics. •Regular workplace safety assessments, Protective clothing like face masks, gloves, other protective gear.
3. Environment/Exposure (Pollution)
Air Pollution (Lower lung cancer risk than Smoking)
•Outdoor Air Pollution - Outdoor air pollution is a mixture of tiny dust-like particles and substances in the air. It can be man-made, such as fumes from vehicles or factories, vehicle tyre and brake wear and smoke from burning fuels like wood or coal. But it can also include natural substances, like wind-blown dust.
•Indoor Air Pollution - We create air pollution indoors from the burning of solid fuels to heat homes and to cook with. Second-hand smoke from cigarettes (passive smoking) falls under this category. Most exposure to second-hand smoke happens in the home and is particularly dangerous for children.
If you are a smoker, smoking outside, well away from the home can help reduce exposure for others. And stopping smoking will have benefits for both your health and others.
Lung Cancer or Covid-19
Lung Cancer and COVID-19: In the last 12 months, we are seeing new issues around the presence of Covid-19 and Lung cancer.
The biggest concern involves missing a lung cancer diagnosis as the symptoms may also be the same with long Covid syndrome. Examples include cough/shortness of breath, persistent tireness or weakness and so on.
They will need careful checking to establish their cause is one condition and not the other.
These are the main takeaways:
The older you are, the greater the risk of Cancer on average.
However, your genes, habits like smoking and exposures to the environment (including your work) can put you at a risk well before old age.
- Physical activity,
- Healthy eating,
- Cutting smoking
- Moderate alcohol consumption, are measures that can help reduce the risk of cancer but knowing more about the symptoms and whether you could be at risk also helps.
In some centres where it is available, low dose CT scan screening can help with early diagnosis.
This type of screening involves arranging for people who are not yet ill to have regular tests to examine for early symptoms of Lung cancer.
Doctors identify people aged 50-80 years who have smoked 1 pack/day for 20 years or stopped smoking within the last 15 years as suitable candidates for CT scan screening.
Let us know in the comments section below if you have any questions on this topic and living better to reduce your risks.
- What Is Lung Cancer?
- Cancer presentation patterns in Lagos, Nigeria: Experience from a private cancer centre
- What will go wrong has gone wrong: asbestos exposure risk among construction workers in Nigeria
- Global cancer statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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