Why Lung Cancer Is The Deadliest (And 3 Things You Can Do To Avoid It)

What is lung cancer?

Lung Cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs. 

Sometimes cancers spread to the lungs from their site of origin during their late-stage. When cancer spread like this, the resultant tumour is called a metastatic mass. It is not classified as lung cancer. 

What are the types of lung cancer?

The two major types of lung cancer are: 

  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Small cell lung cancer (oat cell cancer). 

About 80 to 85% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancers, while 10 to 15% are small cell lung cancers.

Why is lung cancer so deadly?

Lung carcinoma is the deadliest and the second most diagnosed cancer globally. It was responsible for over 1.8 million deaths in 2020, the highest death toll for any variety of cancer.  

Most lung cancers do not cause symptoms until the disease is at an advanced stage. This phenomenon is partly because the lungs have few nerve endings. So the tumour can go undetected for a long time. Lung cancers mainly affect older people. It is rare in people younger than 40.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer cause similar symptoms. 

Early symptoms of Lung Cancer include:

  • Lingering or worsening cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain that increases with deep breathing, coughing or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Breathlessness
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent lung infections

As cancer progresses, additional symptoms may develop based on where the tumour spreads.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Bone pain
  • Neck swelling
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Swelling of the face, arms or legs

What are the risk factors of lung cancer?

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a disease such as lung cancer. However, you may have a risk factor and never develop the disease, vice versa. 

Some risk factors can be avoided or changed – modifiable.

Others cannot -non-modifiable.

Modifiable Risk Factors

  • Cigarette smoking 

Smoking is by far the most predominant risk factor in the development of lung cancer. Research indicates that eradicating smoking can prevent up to 90% of lung cancer diagnoses. 

  • Second-hand smoking

Second-hand smoking occurs when you breathe in smoke from a burning cigarette or a smoker. Exposure to it also increases the risk of developing lung cancers.

  • Occupational hazards

People who work with asbestos (such as mines, shipyards, mills) are exposed to large amounts of it. They have a greater risk of developing mesotheliomas, a variety of cancer. Mesotheliomas develop in the pleura (the thin lining surrounding the lungs).

  • Exposure to other cancer-causing agents 

Examples of such agents include arsenic, coal products, diesel exhaust, radon, nickel, chromium, etc.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors

  • Exposure to radiation therapy to the chest 

Cancer survivors who received radiation therapy around the chest region have a high risk for lung cancer. This phenomenon is called the recurrence of cancer. Examples include patients treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or women who received radiation after undergoing a mastectomy for breast cancer.

  • Family history

Any family history of lung cancer also puts you at greater risk for having lung cancer.

  • City life

In cities, air pollution (especially near heavily trafficked roads) raise the risk of developing lung cancer slightly. Some researchers estimated that 5% of all deaths from lung cancer may be due to outdoor air pollution.

Three Things You Can Do To Avoid Lung Cancer

  1. You can avoid the modifiable risk factors to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.
  2. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have lung cancer, you can speak to a cancer doctor here.
  3. Also, you can book a personalised cancer screening test for yourself or your loved ones.

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