Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer.
It is generally thought of as being a more serious cancer because diagnosis is often not made until it is at a more advanced stage. That is why it is crucial to get the message across that early presentation is so important.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer – after skin cancer – in England and Wales, with an estimated 41,500 new cases being diagnosed every year.
It is the most common cause of cancer-related death in both men and women.
Symptoms are quite varied, depending on where the cancer is located, where it has spread to and how big the tumour is. Lung cancer symptoms may take years before appearing, usually after the disease is at an advanced stage.
Watch a short video from Cancer Research UK to find out more about the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, and why spotting it early is important.
Who is at risk?
Lung cancer is primarily a disease that affects older people.
Cases are rare in people who are under 40 years of age, but the rates rise sharply with age. The most common age range that lung cancer is diagnosed is between 70-74 years of age.
Smoking is the single biggest risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for an estimated 85-90% of cases. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to get lung cancer. The length of time you have been a smoker is important.
Lung cancer can also occur in people who are non-smokers.
Smokers can often be very unreceptive to lung cancer messages and awareness and it is important not to blame or stigmatise them. It is common for people to believe that other people will hold negative views of them because they smoke.
Similarly, lung cancer symptoms can easily ‘get lost’ or dismissed. Reinforcement by professionals to ‘get it checked out’ is important.
Both of these are important myths to dispel, and you should encourage people to seek help as soon as possible.
People often dismiss a cough as a symptom of something else.
Smokers regard it as a ‘smokers cough’ and it is common to pass it off as a ‘winter cough’. That is why we highlight the importance of this symptom amongst the public and staff.
Common symptoms of lung cancer include:
- A continuing cough, usually for three weeks or more
- A change in an existing cough
- A chest infection that does not get better
- Increasing breathlessness
- A dull ache or a sharp pain when you cough or take a deep breath
- Loss of appetite and loss of weight
- Difficulty swallowing
- Excessive tiredness and lethargy
Most lung cancers are caused by smoking If you stop smoking, you’ll reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. This is true no matter how old you are when you stop. After 10 years of not smoking, your chances of developing lung cancer falls to half of that of someone who still smokes. You can find help and advice on quitting smoking at http://www.nhs.uk/smokefree. Eating a healthy, low fat and high fibre diet can reduce your risk of lung cancer Exercising regularly can lower the risk of developing lung cancer
Diagnosis and Treatment
If lung cancer is suspected then the patient will be referred for a chest x-ray by their GP.
Chest x-rays are quick and relatively easy.
If the x-ray shows something that might suggest lung cancer then the GP will arrange an urgent referral to a chest specialist. The patient should see the specialist within two weeks of this referral being made.
Lung cancer is usually treated using a combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.
Remember, the most common symptom is a continuing cough, or change in a long-standing cough: usually for three weeks or more.
It’s a myth to believe that getting cancer is simply down to bad luck or genetic factors. Experts believe that up to half of cases can be prevented through lifestyle changes. – See more at: https://web.archive.org/web/20151113083623/https://cancerawarenesstoolkit.com/cancers/lung-cancer#sthash.G1XHvhZP.dpuf