Dr Tendai Zuze
NOVEMBER is lung cancer awareness month and here is some information on the same. Lung cancer is one of the more common and serious types of cancer. This lethal cancer mainly affects older people and is rare in people younger than 40. Lung cancer does not usually cause any noticeable symptoms until it has spread through much of the lungs and for this reason the outlook is not as good as other cancers. In general, two in three people diagnosed with lung cancer will die within a year of the diagnosis. Early diagnosis can make a big difference.
You may not know you have lung cancer when it is early, but the following symptoms should make you suspicious:
- A cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks or gets worse
- Persistent chest infections
- Coughing up blood
- Persistent shortness of breath
- Persistent tiredness or lack of energy
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
Less common symptoms of lung cancer include: fever, difficulty or pain on swallowing, wheezing, a hoarse voice, swelling of the face or neck and persistent chest or shoulder pain.
Most cases of lung cancer, about 90 percent, are caused by smoking, although people who have never smoked can also develop the condition. Tobacco smoke contains more than 60 different toxic substances, which can lead to the development of cancer.
If you smoke more than 25 cigarettes a day, you are 25 times more likely to get lung cancer than a non-smoker. While smoking cigarettes is the biggest risk factor, using other types of tobacco products, like cigars, snuff and chewing tobacco, can also increase your risk of developing lung cancer and other types of cancer, such as oesophageal and mouth cancers.
Smoking cannabis (mbanje) has also been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. Most cannabis smokers mix their cannabis with tobacco. It has been estimated that smoking four joints (homemade cigarettes mixed with cannabis) may be as damaging to the lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes.
Even smoking cannabis without mixing it with tobacco is potentially dangerous. This is because cannabis also contains substances that can cause cancer. If you do not smoke, frequent exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke (passive smoking) can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. For example, non-smoking women who share their house with a smoking partner are 25 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smoking women who live with a non-smoking partner.
Exposure to certain chemicals and substances that are used in several occupations and industries has been linked to a slightly higher risk of developing lung cancer. These chemicals and substances include arsenic, asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, coal and coke fumes, silica and nickel. Being exposed to large amounts of diesel fumes for many years may also increase your risk of developing lung cancer by half.
To prevent lung cancer, stop smoking or otherwise minimise exposure to cigarette smoke. No matter how long you have been smoking, it is always worth quitting. Every year that you do not smoke, your risk of getting serious illnesses, such as lung cancer, will decrease. After 10 years of not smoking, your chances of developing lung cancer falls to half that of someone who smokes.
Research suggests that eating a low-fat, high-fibre diet, including at least five portions a day of fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of whole grains, can help reduce your risk of lung cancer, as well as other types of cancer and heart disease. There is also strong evidence to suggest that regular exercise can lower the risk of developing lung cancer and other types of cancer.
If you are worried about lung cancer please visit your doctor.