Smoking tobacco is the most prominent cause of death from lung cancer that affects more men than women. The killer disease is much more fatal as it claims more lives than breast, ovarian, and colon cancer taken together. The most dangerous aspect of the disease is that it generally escapes early detection and is usually detected in the advanced stages which makes death inevitable. Not only smokers but also those who surround them and remain exposed to the exhaled smoke have the risk of contracting the disease. Moreover, exposure to asbestos fibers or radon at work or home is another reason for lung damage that can lead to cancer. In the United States, lung cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer among men and women. The disease affects the lungs and renders the organs ineffective thus causing death.
The dangers of smoking and other risks
Tobacco smoke contains carcinogens and inhaling the smoke directly or indirectly increases the risk of lung cancer. Smoking damages the lung tissues but initially, the body repairs the damage with the help of its self-healing powers. However, continued exposure to the carcinogens damages the lining of the lungs which ultimately leads to cancer of the organ. Exposure to carcinogenic chemicals and toxins over a long period can damage the lining of the lungs in a similar way and can ultimately lead to cancer. In some cases, genetic mutations in several genes have a damaging effect on the lungs and cause cancer.
Types of Lung Cancer
Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) – This is the most destructive form of lung cancer affecting 10-15% of patients and is usually detected much late when it becomes difficult to prevent death. Small cell carcinoma is one type of SCLC and combined small cell carcinoma is the other type.
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Non- Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) – Almost 85% of lung cancer cases belong to this category with a survival rate of an average of 5 years among 17% of patients. Advancements in medical science over the last decade helped in identifying genetic driver alterations and accompanied by the development of novel therapies have improved the outcomes of those affected by the disease.
Since detection of the cancer of the lungs happens only in the advanced stages it is imperative that the symptoms too show up very late. Coughing is the most common symptom of lung cancer, especially if coughing up blood, no matter how little it is, or any new cough that doesn’t go away easily. The other symptoms are hoarseness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and consistent weight loss without trying to lose weight. Headache and bone pain are the other symptoms of the disease.
Minimizing the risks
Giving up smoking is the most effective risk-mitigating measure for lung cancer. Either you don’t start smoking or give it up as soon as you can if you already have the habit. Avoid second-hand smoke by staying away from smoking environments.
Get your home tested to detect the presence of radon and follow the health and safety guidelines at the workplace.