Lung cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells develop in the tissue of the lungs. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women.
There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer accounts for about 20% of diagnoses and is most always caused by smoking. Don’t let the name "small cell" fool you. While the cancer cells are small, they spread quickly and can develop into large masses. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer, and there are several subtypes based on where in the lungs the cancer has developed and other factors.
Lung Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
Smoking is the most significant risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for more than 80% of lung cancer diagnoses. Cigarettes aren’t the only culprit; cigars and pipes are known causes of lung cancer as well.
Smokers aren’t the only ones at risk for lung cancer. Nonsmokers increase their risk through other sources, such as secondhand smoke, which increases their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30%. Other risk factors for lung cancer include:
• exposure to asbestos
• exposure to radon
• exposure to radiation
• family history of lung cancer
Lung Cancer Symptoms
• persistent cough that does not go away with treatment
• coughing up blood or bloody phlegm
• shortness of breath
• recurring bronchitis or pneumonia
• pain in the chest, shoulder or neck
Prevention of Lung Cancer
By avoiding certain risk factors for lung cancer, we can reduce our chances of developing it. This is the first step in lung cancer prevention.
Quit Smoking or Don’t Start. Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. As soon as you quit (it’s never too late!), your body reaps the benefits of being tobacco free. Quitting smoking is the best defense against lung cancer.
Avoid Secondhand Smoke. Secondhand smoke is the smoke exhaled from a smoker or smoke from a lit cigarette, pipe or cigar. This smoke contains more than 60 known carcinogens (agents causing cancer). These carcinogens interrupt normal cell development. This interference of cell development is what starts the cancer process.
Test Your Home for Radon. Radon is the result of broken down uranium. It is a radioactive gas that cannot be seen, felt, smelled or tasted. Uranium occurs naturally in the soil, and the fear is that homes are being built over natural deposits, creating high levels of indoor radon exposure, which can lead to lung cancer.
Be Aware of Your Workplace Chemical Exposure. If you are exposed to fumes, dust and chemicals in the workplace, you have a right to know what you are being exposed to. Gasoline, diesel exhaust, arsenic, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas and chloromethyl ethers are all carcinogens and can be found in some work environments. Talk to your employer about limiting your exposure.
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