Lung cancer is widely known to be a fatal consequence of smoking, but it can also affect those who have never had a cigarette. Cancer, although sometimes triggered by an external factor, is the random proliferation of cells. The body is supposed to regulate cell division, but when something interferes with its ability to maintain a balance, cells can divide at an exponential rate, causing tumours.
Lung cancer spreads rapidly once it has formed, and is one of the most difficult types of cancer to treat. In the first year, only 40 % of patients have a chance of surviving; by the third year, this figure drops to 10 %. Lung cancer kills more people each year than colon, prostate and breast cancer combined, making it the most deadly form of cancer.
Second most common cause of lung cancer: radon gas
Tobacco products are responsible for 80-96 % of lung cancer cases, but not smoking does not guarantee lung health. Even without exposure to tobacco products or smoke, a person can still get lung cancer.
Asbestos has become a well-known factor in causing mesothelioma, but it is also linked to lung cancer. Asbestos fibres can remain in the lungs for life, and people who have been exposed are five times more likely to develop lung cancer, even if they have never smoked.
RadonA product of the decay of uranium, lung cancer is the cause of about 3,000 deaths from lung cancer each year in France. Although radon can be detected It is easily found in our homes and is currently the second most common cause of lung cancer after tobacco, but ahead of asbestos. It has been shown that genetic predisposition can contribute to the development of lung cancer. A history of lung disease, including previous lung cancers, also increases the risk. About 1 % of lung cancers are caused by air pollution. While smoking increases the risk, any of these risk factors alone can cause lung cancer.
The symptoms of lung cancer
What makes lung cancer even more dangerous is that in most cases it is not discovered until it has already spread to other parts of the body. Often there are no symptoms. When there are, they may be so slight that a person will not seek medical attention and the cancer will only be detected during a routine examination, or until the cancer spreads and causes more serious symptoms in other areas.
Minor symptoms may include a chronic cough, loss of appetite, nail problems, shortness of breath, weakness and fatigue. More serious signs include coughing up blood, joint and bone pain, unexplained weight loss, facial paralysis and chest pain.
The presence of fluid in the lungs may also, but not always, suggest cancer. Doctors can check this with chest X-rays, sputum cytology, CT scans, MRI, blood tests or PET scans. Sometimes a lung biopsy is necessary.
The most effective way to prevent lung cancer is to avoid cigarette smoke, but a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can also reduce the risk. Lung cancer rarely occurs in people under the age of 45, but after that age it is important to be aware of symptoms and to schedule regular check-ups, especially if any of the risk factors apply.
Early detection increases the chances of survival. Too often people make the mistake of thinking that they are not at risk of having lung cancer because they have never smoked. Yet every year lung cancer continues to kill thousands of people in France. If more people were aware of the lesser known causes, perhaps they would realise the importance of early detection.