Do we all realize that Cancer always doesn’t come in pink? Yes, It comes uninvited and in many shades, one of which is, white. November, the end of autumn and the month full of lights and festive mood, is also marked as the lung cancer awareness month. So why don’t we be updated about the basics of lung cancer, this november?
Lung cancer is the most common cause of death due to cancer in both men and women throughout the world. Lung cancer is predominantly a disease of the elderly; almost 70% of people diagnosed with lung cancer are over 65 years of age, while less than 3% of lung cancers occur in people under 45 years of age. The median age at diagnosis is 70 years.
Nepal ranks 91 in the world for lung cancer deaths accounting to 12.99% of all cancer-related deaths, according to the data published by WHO, 2017. Alone last year, it took a toll of 2,679 deaths. So, to look at it as a fatal killer wouldn’t be wrong.
Smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. About 80% of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. The risk for lung cancer among smokers is many times higher than among non-smokers. The longer you smoke and the more packs a day you smoke, the greater your risk.
Smoking low-tar or “light” cigarettes increases lung cancer risk as much as regular cigarettes. Smoking menthol cigarettes might increase the risk even more since the menthol allows smokers to inhale more deeply.
Smoke from other people’s cigarettes, pipes, or cigars (secondhand smoke) also causes lung cancer. When a person breathes in secondhand smoke, it is like he or she is smoking.
In cities, air pollution (especially near heavily trafficked roads) appears to raise the risk of lung cancer, slightly. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is also a part of the WHO, has classified outdoor air pollution as a cancer-causing agent (carcinogen). The predominant artificial sources of outdoor air pollution are transportation, industrial and agricultural emissions, residential heating and open-fire cooking.
Radiation / Chemical Exposure
People who work with asbestos (such as in iron industries, mills, textile plants, places where insulation is used) are more likely to die of lung cancer. Lung cancer risk is much greater in workers exposed to asbestos who also smoke. It’s not clear how much low-level or short-term exposure to asbestos might raise lung cancer risk.
Other carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) found in some workplaces that can increase lung cancer risk include: radioactive ores such as uranium, inhaled chemicals or minerals such as arsenic, cadmium, silica, vinyl chloride, nickel compounds, chromium compounds, coal products, chloromethyl ethers and diesel exhaust and naturally occurring radioactive gas such as radon.
Radiotherapy for Other Cancers
People who have had radiation therapy to the chest for other cancers are at higher risk for lung cancer. Women who have radiotherapy for breast cancer have a small but significantly increased risk of subsequently developing a primary lung tumor. Research has shown that this risk increases with the amount of radiation absorbed by the tissue. Breast cancer patients should quit smoking in order to reduce their risk of developing lung cancer.
Personal or Family History of Lung Cancer
If you have had lung cancer, you have a higher risk of developing another lung cancer. A proportion of lung cancer patients have recurrence even after a curative resection. The risk may be higher if other members of a family have had lung cancer.
Different people have different symptoms for lung cancer. Some people have symptoms related to the lungs, while some others have symptoms specific to that part of the body where the lung cancer has spread or metastasized. Some people just have general symptoms of not feeling well and most don’t have symptoms until the cancer is advanced.
Other changes that can sometimes occur with lung cancer may include repeated bouts of pneumonia and swollen or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) inside the chest in the area between the lungs.
Every person and every case of lung cancer is different, and so the course to diagnosis is often individual as well. But sticking to a fairly standard course, A physician would probably immediately order a chest x-ray to get a picture of what’s going on inside of the lungs.
Careful analysis of your cancer cells in a lab will reveal what type of lung cancer you have. Early discovery and diagnosis has a dramatic impact on lung cancer prognosis,and so the sooner the diagnosis is made, the better.
LIFESTYLE AND HOME REMEDIES
Coping with shortness of breath
Many people with lung cancer experience shortness of breath at some point in the course of the disease. Treatments such as supplemental oxygen and medications are available to help you feel more comfortable, but they aren’t always enough.
To cope with shortness of breath, it may help to:
- Try to relax.
- Find a comfortable position. It may help to lean forward when you feel short of breath.
- Focus on your breath.
- Save your energy for what’s important and Cut out the nonessential tasks from your day.
Coping and support
A diagnosis of cancer can be overwhelming. With time you’ll find ways to cope with the distress and uncertainty of cancer. Until then, you may find it helps to:
- Learn enough about lung cancer to make decisions about your care. Ask your doctor or other medical professionals about your lung cancer, including your treatment options and, if you like, your prognosis. As you learn more about lung cancer, you may become more confident in making treatment decisions.
- Keep friends and family close. Keeping your close relationships strong will help you deal with your lung cancer. Friends and family can provide the practical support you’ll need, such as helping take care of your house if you’re in the hospital. And they can serve as emotional support when you feel overwhelmed by cancer.
- Find someone to talk with. Find a good listener who is willing to listen to you talk about your hopes and fears. This may be a friend or family member. The concern and understanding of a counselor, medical social worker, or cancer support group also may be helpful.
Janata Clinic | Samartha Nepal
Intern – Research
Janata Clinic | Samartha Nepal