Lung cancer occurs when there exist uncontrolled growths of cells inside the lung tissues. This disease usually affects people that smoke and are exposed to asbestos. Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death among adult male and females, estimated to cause about 1 out of 4 cancer deaths. Cancer is a global menace characterized by disordered, uncontrolled multiplying of tumour body cells.
Understandably, when the lungs happen to fall victim to this chaotic process, the implications are even more grave in view of the central role the lungs play in the body. In tandem with the heart, the lungs ensure that oxygen-rich blood is distributed throughout the entire body in exchange for potentially toxic carbon-dioxide gas which is then expelled when we breathe out.
Highlighted below are some important facts that you need to know about lung cancer.
In 2009, it was reported that over 93 million cigarettes were smoked annually by Nigerians, which adds to the burden of lung cancers.
Lung cancer as a major killer
Reports by World Health Organization reveal that each year, lung cancer kills almost 1.4 million people worldwide due to an increased tobacco use. It is more common among men age 50 years and recently found among women. This type of cancer is very difficult to manage due to closeness to the blood cells
Causes of Lung Cancer and Risk Factors
Studies show that cigarette smoke comprises of 73 known cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) including benzopyrene and 1,3-butadiene. Marijuana smoke also contains most of these carcinogens. Overall, smoking accounts for about 80 – 90% of cases of lung cancer. In addition, passive smoking also confers significant risk such that people who live with someone who smokes have a 20 – 30% increased risk compared to others.
Secondary smoking as a result of staying in an environment with a smoker increases the risk for the development of lung cancer.
Asbestos workers are more likely to develop lung cancer
Asbestos and tobacco smoking tend to have a synergistic effect in increasing lung cancer risk. In fact, asbestos workers who also smoke have 45-fold increased risk of suffering from lung cancer compared to the general population. In addition, excessive asbestos exposure may lead to mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleural covering of the lungs. Other important risk factors include indoor and outdoor air pollution, radon gas exposure as well as a family history of lung cancer.
Types of lung cancer
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): This type spreads at a faster rate
- Small cell lung cancer (SCLC): This is easy to treat with regular chemotherapy.
Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer
- Long and persistent dry or a chronic cough (with blood)
- Chest and rib pain breathing laughing or coughing(At the advanced stage of lung cancer)
- Repeated respiratory infection g pneumonia, shortness of breath
- Excessive weight loss, tiredness, inability to eat well(loss of appetite)
- Swollen neck
- Nerve and brain damage
- Also common: hoarseness, swollen lymph nodes, or weight loss
- If the cancer grows into the airways, it obstructs airflow leading to difficulty with breathing.
- Systemic symptoms such as; weight loss, poor appetite, fever and fatigue can occur, although non-specific. However, it is important to note that in up to 10% of individuals, lung cancer shows no symptoms at the time of diagnosis and it is only discovered on routine chest radiography.
Early Signs of Lung Cancers
It is quite common especially with small cell lung cancer that by the time affected individuals notice symptoms and seek medical attention, the cancer has already spread far beyond the original site thereby creating a more difficult scenario to treat. Common sites of spread include the brain, bone, adrenals, liver, kidneys as well as the opposite lung. Pointers to likely spread include bone pains as well as neurological symptoms such as a headache, convulsions and limb weakness or paralysis.
Survival rate for lung cancer
The survival rate for lung cancer was estimated at 6 months to 5-year for all cancer stages depending on the stage of diagnosis, depending on either it is at a localized stage, advanced or even the patient’s gender.
Available treatment options include:
- Targeted radiotherapy
- Steriotactic radio-surgery
Depending on the stage of lung cancer and the cell type at the time of detection (diagnosis), a number of treatment options may be offered including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or palliative care.
Complete removal of a lobe of lung (lobectomy) or wedge resection is a measure doctors take to cure most cases of early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, small cell lung carcinoma is more responsive to treatments.
Preventive Measures for Lung Cancer
In a bid to stop rate of lung cancer burden among unsuspecting passive smokers, it is very important the government ban smoking in public places such as eateries, schools and workplaces including a total ban on the advertisement of tobacco and tobacco products. Going for regular tomography (CT) scan can help screen high-risk individuals for lung cancer in order to enhance early detection and institute prompt treatment and prevent complications.
10 Ways to Prevent Lung Cancer.
- Avoid smoking and exposure to smokes
- Eat vegetables regularly.
- Limit red meat consumption
- Practice regular exercise
- Embark on periodic cancer screening
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Practice safe sex.
- Avoid exposures to toxic chemicals at home and at work places.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Go on regular medical check up