Smoking & Lung Cancer

Smoking & Lung Cancer

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Lung cancer is a very common disease, often seen in people who are - or were once - smokers. For many people, seeing a friend or loved one suffer from this life-threatening disease is good motivation to kick the habit themselves. If you are concerned about lung cancer, or would like to speak to a doctor as to how to reduce your risk of lung cancer by quitting smoking, book into an LDC GP surgery today. 

 

Lung cancer is a very common type of malignancy; in 2014, there were 46,403 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in the UK. It is a serious type of cancer, and comes in 4 main forms:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Large cell carcinoma
  • Small cell cancer

Lung cancer usually affects people aged 70 and over, and is relatively rare in people under 40 years of age.

 

Lung Cancer Symptoms

The problem with this kind of cancer is that there are usually no symptoms in its early stages, or the symptoms are quite broad and could be present for multiple reasons.

However, most people will usually develop one or more of the following:

  • A persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough up blood
  • Chest pain/achiness
    • often when coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

Some people may also have a slowly resolving pneumonia, a change in the appearance of the fingers (they may become more curved), a hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing.

 

Lung Cancer Risk Factors

Tobacco Smoking

The major risk factor for developing lung cancer is smoking, and it is said to account for over 85% of all cases of lung cancer. Tobacco smoke contains many cancer-producing (carcinogenic) chemicals that can greatly increase your chance of developing cancer. If there is anything to take away from this article, it is to try and stop smoking if you are a current smoker!

man smoking cigarette

Smoking is said to account for 85% of all cases of lung cancer

 

Cannabis Smoking

Smoking cannabis has also been shown to increase your risk of developing lung cancer – smoking roughly 4 joints (cigarettes mixed with cannabis) can be as bad for the lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes.

 

Passive Smoking

It is also important to note that just passive smoking can also increase one’s chances of developing cancer, so if you live with someone who is a smoker, it may be best to advise them to stop smoking as well, for both their and your own health benefits.

 

Asbestos, Arsenic, Radon Gas

Whilst smoking is the biggest risk factor, there are other substances that can increase your chance of developing lung cancer. These include asbestos exposure, arsenic and radon gas. 

 

Concerned About Lung Cancer?

If you think you have any symptoms of lung cancer, contact your GP.

 

What will my GP do?

They will ask about your general health and then may conduct some further tests, including breathing into a spirometer (a device that measures your breathing capacity) and you may have a blood test to rule out any other causes of your symptoms.

If they then suspect that you may have lung cancer, they will send you for a Chest X ray and potentially a CT scan to create an image of the inside of your body. If these scans show any evidence of a tumour, then you will have a bronchoscopy, which aims to remove some cells from inside the lungs to examine the suspected tumour cells.

 

Lung Cancer Treatment

Treatment for lung cancer can depend on:

  • The type of cancer that is diagnosed
  • The size of the cancer
  • How advanced the cancer is
  • Your overall health

Main treatment strategies include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

 

Types of Surgery for Lung Cancer

You may have heard about the various types of surgery that someone can have if they are diagnosed with lung cancer – these include:

  • Lobectomy 
    • Where the lung lobes are removed
  • Pneumonectomy
    • Where the whole lung is removed
  • Segmentectomy
    • Where only a small portion of the lung is removed.

If it is an option, the type of surgery will massively depend on the type of cancer and whether or not it has spread to other areas of the lung. However, surgery may not be the best option and in that case, radiotherapy (where radiation is generated to destroy the tumour and cancerous cells) or chemotherapy (where certain medications can be taken to kill cancer cells) can be given instead.

 

Living with lung cancer can be tough, but there are various support systems available in the UK. Along with the GP and lung cancer specialist doctors, there are also lung cancer specialist nurses, and general support systems such as the Roy Castle Lung Cancer foundation and Macmillan Cancer Support to lend a helping hand. As always, if you're at all worried about anything you have read in today's blog post, why not book a private doctors appointment at one of London Doctors Clinic's eight London clinics

 By Vivekka Nagendran

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