The month of November is designated as the lung cancer awareness month. With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, lung cancer patients should be extra vigilant about the health of their lungs as Covid-19 attacks the respiratory system.
As with any other cancer, early detection is the key to treating and surviving lung cancer effectively. Alas, the symptoms of early stage cancer are subtle and often tend to be dismissed as they are similar to a minor cough or cold. Lung cancer is mostly associated with smokers, but non-smokers have a tendency to contract from lung cancer as well. Former smokers are also vulnerable to lung cancer later in their lives. Therefore, early screenings are pivotal for early detection and cure.
The problem with lung cancer is that it does not remain in the lungs. If left undetected and untreated the cancer spreads beyond the lungs into other organs of the body.
Did You Know?
- One in seven people diagnosed for lung cancer have never smoked a day in their life.
- Passive smoking is equally dangerous as smoking itself.
- Chemicals such as asbestos (and other carcinogens), radon (occurring naturally) and diesel exhaust fumes (vehicles, factories etc.) also increases the risk of cancer.
What are the Types of Lung Cancer?
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): NSCLC is a broad term used to define a series of lung cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
- Small cell lung cancer (SCLC): This type of lung cancer is seen primarily in heavy smokers and is less common.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms?
Most of the time the symptoms of lung cancer may not appear until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. But if you are a smoker (or are frequently around smokers) and one or more of the issues below occur, it is advisable to see a doctor.
- Chronic cough
- Bloody phlegm (mucous)
- Feeling breathless during inactivity
- Chest or shoulder pains
- Frequent chest infections
- Coughing up blood
- Persistent wheezing
- Changing voice (hoarseness)
- Tiredness, lack of energy and/or weight loss without reason
How to Reduce the Risk of Lung Cancer?
There is no way to effectively prevent lung cancer as many of the pollutants causing this dreadful disease are already in the air thanks to vehicular and factory emissions. But reducing the risk of lung cancer is possible.
- Reduce smoking and eventually stop.
- Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Test for radon (naturally occurring) and avoid carcinogens (replace asbestos).
- Cut down on fatty foods.
- Reduce salt and sugar intake.
- Reduce the intake of alcohol.
- Exercise regularly and stay active.
How Can Technology Help?
Unfortunately, there is no DIY test for lung cancer detection at the moment. Visits to the doctor are a must and extensive testing such as X-rays and CT scans are the common ways of detecting lung cancer. However, you can always track the amount of cigarettes, junk food, and alcohol you ingest using intuitive smartphone apps to understand and eventually reduce reliance on these unhealthy lifestyle choices.
For more info:
- Understand how lung cancer works (3min) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIz-nN2bzLk
- See how you can be affected by passive smoking (23 min) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9TFUzWzgOo
- Read more about WHO’s cancer profile for Sri Lanka (2020 stats) – https://www.who.int/cancer/country-profiles/LKA_2020.pdf