Lung cancer continues to be one of the world’s leading causes of cancer death worldwide. Each year, there are around 2 million cases of lung cancer that lead to approximately 1.7 million deaths. Although signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur only when the disease is advanced, early detection is possible through annual screenings using low-dose CT scans.
What Causes Lung Cancer?
It is a well-established fact that smoking causes the majority of lung cancers both in smokers and in people who are exposed to secondhand smoke, it can also occur in people who never smoked and those who never had prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke:
1. Smoking and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke
The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day as well as the number of years you have smoked.
Your risk of long cancer increases if you’re exposed to secondhand smoke, even if you don’t smoke.
2. Exposure to Radon gas, asbestos, and other carcinogens
Have you heard of “radon gas”? It’s a natural, radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer if you are overexposed with it. It is the result of naturally decayed uranium in almost all soils. When outdoors, radon gas is usually harmless. However, when radon gas is trapped indoors, it can be lethal. Since radon gas is odourless, the only way to know if you’re safe is to test your house for radon levels.
In addition, workplace exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens like arsenic can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, especially if you are a smoker.
3. Family History
If you have a parent, sibling or child with lung cancer, your risk of the disease also increases.
Some signs and symptoms of lung cancer are pretty common and can be identified even before you get a cancer screening test. These symptoms include:
New and persistent cough that does not go away
Coughing up blood, even if it’s a small amount
Shortness of breath
Unexpected weight loss
Another fact to keep in mind is that there are two types of lung cancer, mainly small cell and non-cell lung cancer.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is almost exclusive to heavy cigarette smokers and is also the less common type of lung cancer.
On the other hand, non-cell lung cancer (NCLC) covers a wide group of cancer types that behave in a certain way, such as squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Non-cell lung cancer is also common since it covers around 85% of lung cancer types.
Preventing Lung Cancer
Although there is no certain way to prevent lung cancer, you can reduce your risk if you:
1. Don’t smoke or stop smoking– Whether you’ve tried to smoke or not, it’s best to avoid cigarettes altogether.
2. Avoid secondhand smoke as far as possible, whether at home or outside.
3. Practice a healthy lifestyle by exercising most days of the week. Start out slowly if you don’t.
4. Eat a diet full of vegetables and fruits, but avoid high does of vitamins in pill form as they may be harmful.
5. Avoid carcinogens at home and at work. Get your home tested for Radon, and observe all safety precautions to protect yourself from toxic chemicals at work.
Although lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, you can still play a part in minimizing your risks.
Visit our cancer management centre in Singapore if you have any concerns about your risk of lung cancer. Our Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist and team of oncology specialists will be glad to be of assistance.