Lung cancer is one of the main causes of cancer deaths in Malaysia. In fact, 95 per cent of lung cancer patients die within five years of diagnosis. A whopping 90 per cent of lung cancer is caused by cigarette smoking. The occurrence of lung cancer is also high among non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke (passive smoking).----------------------------------
What does the Lung do?
The two lungs of the body are located in the cavity formed by the rib cage. Lungs form part of the body’s respiratory system, supplying blood with oxygen inhaled, and disposing waste carbon dioxide when air is exhaled.
Lungs are kept clean by the sweeping action of tiny hair-like structures called ‘cilia’, which line the air passage and sweep out foreign particles and mucus. An early sign of damage to the lungs is a breakdown of this cleaning action, which can be caused by cancer.
What is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lungs. These cells lose control of their orderly division and produce a growth called a tumour.
If a tumour is benign, it is not cancerous and will not spread to other parts of the body. A malignant tumour, on the other hand, is cancerous and can invade neighbouring tissues and organs or break away and spread through the bloodstream or lymph channels.
When cancer spreads through the lymph channels, it can cause enlarged glands. When it spreads through the bloodstream, it may invade other organs, especially the liver, bones, brain or the other lung. The cancer that spreads is the same as the primary cancer. This means, lung cancer that spreads to the brain (or another region) is called metastic lung cancer although the new tumour is in the brain (or another organ).
What causes Lung Cancer?
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Tobacco smoke contains some 4,000 different chemicals. Of these, many are carcinogens – harmful substances that damage cells. Over time, these cells can become cancerous. The more a person smokes, the higher the risk of getting cancer – not just of the lung, but also cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, larynx, bladder, kidney, cervix and pancreas. There is also increasing evidence that environmental tobacco smoking (passive smoking) can contribute to lung cancer among non-smokers. Exposure to other carcinogens in the workplace such as asbestos also increases the risk of lung cancer.
The risk is especially high for workers who smoke. Work and safety rules should always be carefully followed to reduce any exposure to workplace carcinogens. Workers who are exposed to high levels of radon, a radioactive gas, also have an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Other occupational exposures that have been associated with lung cancer include processing of steel, nickel, chrome and coal gas.
Signs and symptoms of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer usually does not cause symptoms when it first develops. Doctors sometimes discover lung cancer in a person with no symptoms after the individual has a chest x-ray for another medical reason. However, lung cancer is usually found after the growing tumour causes symptoms to appear.
The most common symptoms are:
Shortness of breath
Hoarseness of voice
Blood - strained sputum
Repeated bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis
Loss of weight and appetite
If you have any of these symptoms, you must have them checked by your doctor. However, it is also important to remember that these symptoms also occur in illnesses other than cancer.
Several tests are available to confirm the presence of lung cancer. These include a chest x-ray, CAT scan, a sputum cytology test and use of a fibre optic bronchoscope, a narrow flexible tube inserted down the airway to allow the doctor to look into the lungs.
Like most cancers, the earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of recovery. However, for lung cancer the symptoms may not appear until the disease is quite advanced. This is why only about five per cent of lung cancer patients survive diagnosis. Doctors are still working on an accurate screening method to detect lung cancer early.
Lung cancer can be treated by three main methods, namely:
Surgery - removal of part or all of the lung
Radiotherapy - the use of radiation treatment to destroy cancer cells
Chemotherapy - the use of drugs that kill cancer cells
The type of treatment depends on the size, extent of spread and histology (type of cell) of lung cancer. In the early stages, surgery may be used to remove the cancer. Radiotherapy may also be used to slow the growth of the cancer and relieve pain and other symptoms. Chemotherapy can be suggested for patients with small cell carcinoma. Sometimes, a combination of treatments is recommended.
Prevention of Lung Cancer
This can be achieved when you:
Improve industrial hygiene
Are filtered or low tar cigarettes safe?
No, the risk of developing lung cancer is not reduced by using filter or low tar cigarettes.
What about cigars and pipes?
Smoking a pipe or cigar will put you at an even greater risk than cigarette smoking.
Inform your friends and family of your intention to quit smoking. Their support and encouragement will make it easier
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Get rid of all your cigarettes, matches, lighters and ashtrays
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Involve yourself in a hobby or outdoor activities such as swimming, walking or jogging to occupy your mind
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Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, coffee and other drinks that may stimulate the need to smoke
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Learn to say no to offers of cigarettes from others. Keep away from cigarette smoke
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Eat more fruits and vegetables
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If you feel the urge to smoke, take a deep breath, drink cold water or go for a shower. Do whatever it takes to get your mind off that cigarette!
Remember, of all the cancers, lung cancer is one of the highest killers among men. Start your fight against lung cancer. If you are a smoker, stop smoking now. If you're not a smoker, don't start and keep away from unhealthy smoke.
~We are the one who choose either to keep healthy or destruct ourselves~
“Truly, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran 13:11)
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