November is considered to be the Lung Cancer Awareness Month. The time when people across the world raise awareness about the deadly disease. More people die from lung cancer than from breast, prostate, and colon cancers put together. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women. Compared to other cancers, lung cancer is given a lot less funding for research and public awareness despite having a high death rate.
Lung cancer occurs when lung cells grow abnormally uncontrollably, leading to the formation of a tumour. Lung cancer can be categorised into two main types: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC), with NSCLC being the most common. Symptoms of lung cancer may vary depending on its stage and type. In the early stages, there might not be any noticeable signs, making it crucial for individuals at high risk to undergo regular screenings. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include persistent coughing, chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, wheezing, recurrent respiratory infections like pneumonia or bronchitis, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss. It's important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to lung cancer and could be caused by other conditions as well. According to Dr Dattatray Andure, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Onco Life Cancer Center, Satara, it is crucial for individuals experiencing such symptoms to consult a doctor for appropriate evaluation and diagnosis.
As we observe Lung Cancer Awareness Month, it is crucial to understand the various risk factors that contribute to this deadly disease.
Smoking and exposure to chemicals can also cause lung cancer. Smokers are incredibly susceptible to developing lung cancer, as the harmful chemicals in cigarettes can damage the cells lining the lungs and lead to malignancy. Also, secondhand smoke is harmful. This means that even if you don't smoke yourself, simply being exposed to secondhand smoke on a regular basis can still increase your chances of developing lung cancer. Previous lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can increase the chances of lung cancer in smokers.
One often overlooked factor related to lung cancer is indoor air pollution. Most people are aware of the dangers of outdoor air pollution, such as exhaust fumes, smoke from factories, and smog, causing lung cancer. Remember that even indoor air pollution can also be harmful. Studies have shown that some individuals inherit certain gene mutations that make them more susceptible to developing lung cancer when exposed to carcinogens like tobacco smoke or environmental pollutants. Smoking and exposure to chemicals can also cause lung cancer.
Exposure to Carcinogens
Exposure to certain chemicals and substances in the environment or workplace can increase the risk of lung cancer. These include asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust, and some industrial chemicals. Like smoking, these substances can damage the cells in the lungs and lead to cancer over time. Individuals who work in industries such as mining, construction, and manufacturing are at a higher risk of exposure to these carcinogens.
Family History and Genetics
While lung cancer is not a hereditary disease, having a family history of the disease can increase an individual's risk. In some cases, certain genetic mutations make individuals more susceptible to lung cancer when exposed to other risk factors such as smoking or environmental toxins.
Age and Gender
As with most types of cancer, age is a significant risk factor for lung cancer. The disease is most commonly diagnosed in individuals over the age of 65. However, it is important to note that lung cancer can occur at any age.
Vital tips to prevent lung cancer
Even if you've been smoking for years, it's never too late to quit. Quitting smoking significantly reduces your risk of developing lung cancer over time. Non-smokers are not exempt from the risks of lung cancer as they can still be exposed to harmful toxins through secondhand smoke. If you don't smoke yourself but frequently find yourself around people who do, it's crucial to limit your exposure by seeking smoke-free environments whenever possible. Breathing polluted air filled with particles like soot, dust, or industrial pollutants increases the risk of developing respiratory conditions such as lung cancer over time. Ensure good ventilation at home.