Caused by abnormal cells or a malignant tumour growing in an uncontrolled way in one or both lungs; around 34 people in Australia are diagnosed with lung cancer every day.
While it has a higher mortality rate than cancers like prostate, breast and melanoma; the good news is treatment is available and there are ways to reduce your risk and improve the health of your lungs now.
Breaking the stigma
Understanding what causes lung cancer and how we can look after our lungs can help us both reduce our risk, and better support those who are diagnosed with lung cancer or experiencing chronic lung conditions.
According to the Lung Foundation Australia, in a survey of 15 nations, Australians have the least sympathy towards people with lung cancer, because of its association with tobacco smoking.
What causes lung cancer?
As many as 90% of Australians believe that smoking is the only risk factor associated with lung cancer. But in truth, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men diagnosed with lung cancer have no history of smoking.
Factors that can increase your risk of lung cancer include:
- Smoking tobacco or exposure to second-hand smoke
- Exposure to asbestos, radioactive gases and harmful occupational substances (including arsenic, diesel fumes and soot)
- History of lung diseases including lung fibrosis and emphysema
- Family history
What symptoms should I look out for?
Symptoms can be vague and typical of many common conditions, which is a contributing factor in why lung cancer is often not diagnosed earlier. They can include:
- A cough (new, persistent or a change in a what you’re already experiencing)
- Chest pain
- Voice hoarseness
- Coughing up blood
- Weight loss
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, the Lung Foundation Australia recommend making an appointment with your Doctor or health professional.
Caring for your lungs
Looking after your lungs is important for more than just reducing your risk of lung cancer. Here’s a few ways that you can look after your lung health and help you breathe easier:
- Quit smoking and reduce your exposure to second-hand smoke.
- Avoid exposure to pollutants. This can include protective equipment if you work in environments that expose you to dust, gas, fumes or chemicals and doing the same for any situations outside of work that expose you to these elements. Pay attention to any warnings of pollutants in the air including fire smoke and pollution which can irritate the airways and worsen some conditions including asthma.
- Prevent infection. Sounds simple and after 2020 we’ve all perfected our hygiene practices. Limit your risk of developing conditions like influenza, COVID and pneumonia that impact your lungs by practicing good hand and home hygiene, staying home and seeking medical advice if unwell and considering appropriate vaccinations for your age and circumstances; your doctor or health care professional will be able to guide you on what’s recommended for you.
- Regular exercise and a healthy diet. Small steps can turn into positive life changes that will benefit your overall health, not just your lungs. If it’s been a while since you exercised or need some advice on getting started, reach out to your doctor or health care professional.
- Visit lungfoundation.com.au to learn more about lung health, for resources and support and take their online lung health check.
- Speak to your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms or have any concerns about your health and wellbeing.