Save your lungs, save your life

It’s World Lung Cancer Day

It's a good day to review this potentially deadly disease.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Statistics show that in the UK, in just one year, some 25,000 men and 21,600 women were diagnosed.

Lung cancer is cancer that starts in the windpipe (trachea), the main airway (bronchus) or the lung tissue.

What are the risk factors?

Smoking is widely recognised as a major risk factor (86%) - just stop! Other causes/risks include:

  • Environment: radon, arsenic, beryllium and uranium. It can include exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace such as silica, diesel engine exhaust fumes and asbestos. This is why participating in your employer’s health surveillance programme is so important
  • Radiation
  • Diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, COPD and TB
  • A history of cancer in another part of the body or a family history of lung cancer
  • Cancer treatment for other types of cancer
  • A lowered immune system
  • Lung cancer risk increases with age.

What are the symptoms?

These symptoms could be due to lung cancer but can also be caused by other medical conditions:

  • A cough that won't go away: you may have a cough most of the time or it could be worse at different times of the day
  • A change in a cough you have had for a long time, or it might sound different
  • Being short of breath: you may get out of breath doing the things you used to do
  • Coughing up blood: this may be small amounts of blood. You may be coughing up rust coloured phlegm or it might have flecks of red in it
  • An ache or pain in the chest or shoulder: it could be a dull ache or a sharper pain
  • Loss of appetite: you may have lost your appetite or may not feel like eating foods that you normally like
  • Losing weight: you may lose a lot of weight quickly when you are not dieting
  • Feeling very tired (fatigue) a lot of the time
  • Ongoing chest infections: you may have chest infections most of the time or you might have a chest infection that doesn’t get better with treatment
  • Hormone-related symptoms such as pins and needles or numbness in the fingers or toes, muscle weakness, drowsiness, weakness, dizziness and confusion, breast swelling in men, blood clots
  • Some people have clubbed fingernails (turned down at the end)
  • Pancoast tumours may cause symptoms that affect the face or eyes.

These symptoms may not be due to cancer but it's important to get them checked by a doctor. They can undertake tests and where necessary refer you for further tests and treatment. Don't delay.

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