Missy Spease, a health care worker and a lung cancer survivor, who smoked for 30 years of her life shared a story of how she found out she had cancer. Missey previously had bronchitis and she had a cough that wouldn’t go away, so she thought it was a chest infection until her coworker nudged her to see a doctor.
They did a chest x-ray, ran some tests and afterwards did a biopsy on her only to find out that there were cancer cells in her lungs, she began treatment and survived the process.
Robert Pilla is also a lung cancer survivor who went to the hospital for back surgery and In the process of doing an x-ray, a tumour was seen in his lungs. He didn’t have any symptoms prior to that but he had been smoking for 15 years. As at the time he shared his story, he was over 70 years. His procedure and treatment were easy because it was detected early enough, and that’s the good thing about cancer, early detection offers almost a 100 survival rate.
The common thing amongst these two survivors is that they have been smokers for the most part of their lives and that’s the number 1 risk factor for lung cancer.
Lung cancer begins when lung cells mutate and begin to grow uncontrollably and form a tumour or a mass in the lungs. Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer with a high death rate in both males and females, yet the most preventable type of cancer. This article will touch a bit on the risk factors, signs and prevention of lung cancer.
-Risk factors for lung cancer
- Smoking: about 80-90 per cent of lung cancer is linked to smoking, tobacco precisely. It has not been proven that smoking other substances can cause lung cancer. Smoking is very hazardous to the human body so much that the manufacturers put a disclaimer that “smokers are liable to die young” on the cigarette pack but I think the disclaimer is only visible to non-smokers.
- Second-hand smoking: “oh I don’t smoke, I just have a lot of smoker friends”. It is said that second-hand smokers inhale most part of the tobacco and are at 20-30 per cent risk of developing lung cancer. Parents who smoke around their kids put them at risk as well as those who have smoking partners. If you are not a smoker, excuse yourself from wherever they smoke tobacco, or else, you’d be better off just lighting a stick for yourself.
- Exposure to certain chemicals: asbestos chromium, arsenic etc are known carcinogens that when inhaled over time can cause cancer or increase your chances of developing lung cancer.
- Prior cancer treatment: if you’ve had some sort of radiation therapy, exposure to this radiation can put you at risk of developing lung cancer.
-Signs of lung cancer
- A persistent cough that consistently gets worse over a short period of time
- Chest infections
- Coughing up blood
- Unexplained shortness of breath
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Unintentional weight loss
- Persistent chest and shoulder pain etc
Stages and treatment of lung cancer
Lung cancer has four different stages, and these stages determine if it can be treated and what treatment would be required.
If lung cancer is discovered in stage 1 when the mass is still confined to one part of the lungs, it can easily be operated on and surgically removed, just like Robert Pilla, he said after the Xray captured the mass in his lungs, he was immediately operated upon and in 1 day he was done with anything lung cancer.
In stage 2, this means cancer has been detected early but the mass would have begun to spread from the original spot to form smaller masses. Surgery can still be done but chemotherapy is also an option.
At stage 3 the lung cancer has now spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the lungs and probably invaded the middle of the chest. Multiple treatment options are available here to stop the progression of the disease. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are the treatments for this stage and surgery too.
In stage 4 cancer has spread outside the lungs and chest, this is what is called metastasis. at this point, surgery will no longer be an option because it has spread to other parts including the bone, liver and brain. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are viable treatments for this stage. The survival rate at this stage is very low but some doctors believe stage 4 lung cancer is curable using immunotherapy
Fear stops people from doing the most reasonable thing, when they have strange symptoms, it stops them from seeing the doctor, which in turn worsens the disease and puts them at risk of dying. Lung cancer is still curable as there are also so many new trial treatments coming up, your doctor will always know what treatment is best for you. Endeavour to observe your body and treat any new feeling or symptom. Above all try to quit smoking or seek help if you have a hard time quitting smoking.