Smoking – There is a strong link between lung cancer and cigarette smoking, and about 90% of lung cancer cases are a result of tobacco use. The risk of lung cancer increases the more cigarettes you smoke and the longer time you smoke. It is believed that among smokers of two or more packs of cigarettes per day, one in seven will die of lung cancer.
Passive smoking – You don’t have to be a smoker yourself to put your health at risk. Tobacco smoke contains many chemicals that have been shown to be carcinogenic. The risk increases the more you are exposed to cigarettes smoked by the other people.
Air pollution – It is believed that prolonged exposure to highly polluted air can increase the risk of developing lung cancer similar to that of passive smoking.
Asbestos fibers and other chemicals – asbestos use is limited or banned in many countries, but was widely used in the past. This includes also exposure to certain chemicals and substances that are used in several occupations and industries such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, coal, silica and nickel.
Radon gas – This is a natural radioactive gas that is a product of uranium. It is invisible and odorless and can come up through soil and enter the house.
Heredity – Individual genetic susceptibility may play a role in getting lung cancer. Also people with a family member with lung cancer have an increased risk of the disease.
Lung diseases – Certain lung diseases are associated with an increased risk for developing lung cancer, such as COPD and scarring of the lung.
Over 65 years of age – Almost 70% of people diagnosed with lung cancer are over 65 years of age, whereas less than 3% of lung cancers occur in people under 45 years of age.
Signs and symptoms of lung cancer
Warning signs of lung cancer are not always present or easy to identify. In many cases lung cancer may not show any noticeable symptoms in the early stages. But if you suspect that some of the risk factors apply to you, then early screening may help people at high risk for the disease.
A person with lung cancer may have the following symptoms:
1. Persistent cough or changes in cough
If you have a cold, your cough should go away after a week or two, but if it persists over a long time, you should see your doctor. If you are a smoker or suffers from chronic cough, notice if there are any changes in your chronic cough, for example: coughing more frequently, deeper cough with a deeper or hoarse sound, coughing up blood or having more mucus than usual.
2. Shortness of breath
If you are short of breath while doing a task that you could have done easily in the past, it may be a symptom of lung cancer. This symptom can occur if lung tumor blocks or narrows an airway, or if fluid from it builds up in the chest.
3. Chest and bone pain
One of the symptoms may be pain in the chest, shoulder, or back area. Lung cancer that has spread to the bones may cause pain at the sites of the affected bone. If it has spread to the brain it may cause a number of neurological symptoms and headaches. So listen to your body and if the pain persists and doesn’t go away, go to see your doctor.
While a whistling sound when you breathe can result from asthma or allergies, it can also be associated with lung cancer. If wheezing persists, visit your doctor to find the cause of it.
5. Voice changes
Your voice becomes hoarser and deeper or you notice any other significant changes in your voice. While hoarseness can result from a simple cold, if it persists then go to see your doctor.
6. Persistent chest infections
Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back.
7. Weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness
These are non-specific symptoms that can be seen with many other cancer types or other diseases, but if the changes are unexplained and persist, then go to your doctor to find the cause of it.
How to reduce the risk for developing lung cancer
Stop smoking if you haven’t done it yet. You can read my previous article about 5 natural ways to quit smoking that have been scientifically proven. If you are a passive smoker, eliminate your exposure to tobacco smoke.
Test your home for radon – If you suspect you have radon gas in your home, buy a home radon test kit that can identify increased radon levels in the home.
Avoid carcinogens at work – Take precautions to protect yourself from exposure to toxic chemicals at work.
Other lifestyle changes – There is strong evidence to suggest that regular exercise can lower the risk of developing lung cancer and other types of cancer. Also eat a high fiber diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. There is also evidence that this vegetable can reduce the risk of lung cancer. You can also read my article about the top 14 foods that protect against cancer development.
Early scanning – Chest X-rays are not effective in detecting early-stage lung cancer. However, low-dose CT scans have been shown to reduce lung cancer mortality by 20%.