Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers and one of the most common causes of cancer deaths worldwide, causing over 2 million cases and over 1.5 million deaths each year. Cigarette smoking is the main cause of lung cancer and it can also lead to over 10 other cancers such oesophageal cancer, stomach cancer and pancreatic cancer.
About lung cancer
Lung cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. It occurs when abnormal cells grow and multiply rapidly and uncontrollably in the lining of the lung. Lung cancer can either be primary or secondary. Primary lung cancer begins in the lungs while secondary lung cancer spreads from other parts of the body to the lungs. The two main types of primary lung cancer are:
- Non-small cell lung cancer which is the most common, accounting for over 80% of all lung cancer cases. It can be of different types, namely, adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and large cell carcinomas.
- Small cell lung cancer on the other hand, is less common but spreads faster than non-small cell lung cancer.
The major risk factor for lung cancer is smoking whether it be direct or second-hand smoking. However, other factors such as exposure to radon gas, exposure to chemical substances used in industries and having a family history with lung cancer can also increase the chance of developing lung cancer.
In its early stages, lung cancer may not exhibit any symptoms. However, as it progresses, symptoms such as shortness of breath, persistent coughing and chest pain can be experienced. It can be diagnosed through tests like a bronchoscopy, a biopsy and imaging tests such as a CT scan. The treatment for lung cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer. Depending on these factors, lung cancer can be treated through surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but if the cancer is wide-spread, palliative care is usually offered to the patient. The best way to prevent lung cancer is by not smoking.
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How does smoking cause lung cancer?
Cigarettes contain nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar, among other chemical substances that are harmful to the body.
Nicotine is the substance which smokers get addicted to because when it is inhaled, it enters the bloodstream stimulating the brain and making a person crave for it when the nicotine level in the blood falls. This craving is what is commonly referred to as a ‘head rush’.
Carbon monoxide on the other hand, reduces the oxygen carried by the blood and can lead to heart problems. The other substance, tar, is deposited in different parts of the body including blood vessels and lungs.
When we talk of ‘smoking’ we refer not only to cigarette smoking but also to pipe, cigar and marijuana smoking.
Smoking damages DNA including genes that protect the body from cancer. With every 15 cigarettes smoked, there is change in DNA which can lead to a cell becoming cancerous. Over 600,000 deaths worldwide, are caused by second-hand smoking. People tend to think that only direct smoking can cause cancer, however, even being a second-hand smoker can cause lung cancer.
Apart from lung cancer, smoking can also cause many other health conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and several other types of cancers like pancreatic, ovarian, colon and mouth cancer.
How can you quit smoking?
Smoking is a health hazard and therefore, not smoking or quitting smoking is a very significant step in preventing lung cancer. Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer.
Quitting smoking may not be easy, especially for those who are heavily addicted to it. To increase your chances of quitting smoking successfully, it helps to seek assistance and have a quitting plan to guide and motivate you on your smoke free journey.
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