Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the lung grow in an uncontrolled way. It often spreads (metastasises) to other parts of the body before the cancer can be detected in the lungs.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in Australia with around 12,000 people diagnosed each year. It’s 1 of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women in Australia.
The signs and symptoms of lung cancer can include:
- a new cough that has persisted for three weeks or more
- a changed cough
- coughing up blood
- a chest infection that won’t go away
- chest pain and/or shoulder pain
- shortness of breath
- hoarse voice
- weight loss or loss of appetite.
The symptoms of lung cancer can often be vague and mimic those of other conditions, so it’s important to know what your cough is telling you.
What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
Factors that are associated with a higher risk of developing lung cancer include:
- smoking cigarettes, pipes or cigars currently or in the past – this is the greatest risk factor for lung cancer, and the risk is greatest for people who began smoking early in life, smoked for longer and smoked more often
- exposure to second-hand smoke
- personal or family history of lung cancer
- radiotherapy treatment to the chest
- exposure to radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can build up inside houses in some areas
- exposure to asbestos fibres – this also increases the risk of developing mesothelioma, which starts in the lining surrounding the lungs (the pleura) and is not considered a type of lung cancer
- exposure to other workplace substances, including radioactive ores (e.g. uranium), chromium compounds, nickel, arsenic, soot, tar or diesel fumes
- exposure to air pollution
- infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS
- a history of certain diseases of the lungs, including tuberculosis, fungal infections of the lungs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary fibrosis.
Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors and whether someone in the family has had cancer.
Having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop cancer. Many people have at least one risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Lung Cancer Awareness Month
November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, provides the opportunity to raise community awareness of lung cancer and the signs and symptoms of the disease.
Cancer Australia has released a lung cancer awareness video called ‘What’s your cough telling you?’. It highlights symptoms that could be lung cancer and the importance of early assessment by a GP or healthcare worker.
Make a booking today
Are you at risk of getting lung cancer? See your doctor to be sure. Finding lung cancer at an early stage can lead to better outcomes.
Make a booking today with one of our friendly doctors. You can book online, on the Appointuit app or by calling 9304 0500.
Source: Cancer Australia
Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs.