Lung Cancer is, without a doubt, a chronic disease. Known to have one major cause, far surpassing other causes in prevalence, in many cases it is preventable through lifestyle choices. 89% of lung cancer cases each year in the USA alone are linked to major lifestyle risk factors.
Lung Cancer is a specific cancer that starts in one of three main lung areas: the trachea (or windpipe); bronchus (the main airway); or in lung tissue itself. Lung cancer usually affects older people, those over the age of 70. It rarely occurs in the under 40’s.
Lung Cancer can be subdivided in to two main sub-categories: primary lung cancer and secondary lung cancer. Lung Cancer that starts with the lungs themselves (as defined above) is known as Primary Lung Cancer and is the focus of this section. Cancers that start elsewhere in the body but spread to the lungs are known as Secondary Lung Cancer.
Primary Lung Cancer can also be split in to two main sub-types:
Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: This is the most commonly occurring type of lung cancer and is one of either: squamous cell carcinoma; adenocarcinoma, or large-cell carcinoma.
Small-Cell Lung Cancer: This form of lung cancer is considerably rarer, however, it is more likely to spread more rapidly, both within the lungs and elsewhere in the body.
Lung cancer doesn’t tend to display symptoms in the early-onset stage of the disease. For this reason, individuals with lung cancer rarely are able to make a full recovery. Thus, this makes lung cancer a chronic condition. The cancer, because it is symptomless at this stage, becomes far harder to treat by the time symptoms present themselves.
The symptoms that develop in later stages of lung cancer include the development of a persistent cough which may also go on to include the coughing up of blood, persistent breathlessness and wheeziness, tiredness and fatigue, potential weight loss, and sometimes an aching or pain within the chest.
Lung Cancer has clearly defined known risk factors:
Smoking: Smoking is the single biggest risk associated with lung cancer. It is avoidable, and been known for many years to be the single leading cause of lung cancer. Whilst the amount smoked is important, of more importance is the length of time an individual has smoked for. The longer the amount of time someone has smoked, the greater the chance of developing lung cancer. Additionally, starting to smoke at a young age is known to increase the risk of lung cancer in adulthood. Passive smoking is known to pose a risk to the passive smoker going on to develop lung cancer although the statistics on these cases are very difficult to accurately quantify. The type of smoking is also a factor with cigarette smokers being at greatest risk, but pipe and cigar smokers are also at risk of developing lung cancer. Stopping smoking is the single biggest way to reduce an individual’s risk of lung cancer.
Occupational Exposures: Whilst many of the occupational exposures implicated in lung cancer have been widely legislated against over the years, due to the length of time lung cancer takes to develop and show, occupational causes are still a major concern. Occupational risk includes exposure to asbestos, silica, and diesel exhaust (a frequent problem for miners and professional drivers).
Ionising Radiation: This is due to exposure from rock and soils in areas where naturally-occurring radon gas is a known problem, for example, in the South West of England.
Air Pollution: Inhalation, over a prolonged time, of air pollution is a known risk factor for lung cancer.
Insufficient Fruit & Vegetable Intake: Research is still unfolding, but it is now known that flavonoids in fresh fruit and vegetables can help to prevent certain types of cancer including lung cancer.
Previous Lung Disease: Past history of certain types of lung disease, such as tuberculosis, may increase an individual’s propensity for developing lung cancer.
Family History: Whilst lifestyle factors are without a doubt the most common cause of lung cancer, genetic history can also play a part in an individual’s likelihood of developing the disease.
Past Cancer Treatment: Past cancer treatment, for example radiotherapy, is now associated with an increased chance of an individual going on to develop lung cancer.
As the vast majority of lung cancer sufferers don’t go on to make a recovery, it is essential to take proactive management of the disease to ensure the best quality of life possible for as long as possible.
Treatment will depend on how far the cancer has spread and the general state of health of the patient but is likely to involve a mixture of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Beyond initial treatment, lung cancer management depends on three key factors:
Caring Support: Assistance with living, and support for the carers and family of the affected individual.
Specialist Nursing: Due to its prevalence, there are lung cancer nurses specialised in treating and caring for people with lung cancer.
Managing Breathlessness: This can be done in a variety of ways, with escalation of intervention as symptoms worsen. Physiotherapists can help provide breathing exercises to minimise breathlessness, and ultimately it may be necessary for a lung cancer sufferer to have oxygen treatment.
At WizeLife we believe in bringing health information, tailored specifically to you, to your inbox via a simple, easy, online assessment. Compiled by medical experts using a plethora of the most up to date medical studies, we can assess your risk factors for chronic diseases such as Lung Cancer. However, knowledge is power, and so we go beyond this. We actively give you information and advice based on your known health risks compared to a perfectly healthy virtual patient, and advise you on what you can do to target elevated risks and reduce them in line with an ideal health basis, making you healthier and less at-risk. For tips on managing and reducing the risks associated with Lung Cancer, take our 7-minute test now.