With November being Lung Cancer Awareness month, it’s a timely reminder to be aware of the signs to watch for and potentially have your lung health checked.
For the last 50 years, lung cancer has taken more Kiwi lives each year than any other cancer, including breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma combined.
Part of the problem is that it’s often detected too late when the disease is advanced and has spread to other parts of the body. In fact, 74% of lung cancer patients in New Zealand show signs that their cancer has already advanced when they are first diagnosed.
Anything that can increase the chances of developing cancer is a risk factor. Some of these can be changed (like smoking), and others can’t (like family history). Here are some risk factors highlighted by the Cancer Society of New Zealand that can help you.
Smoking tobacco is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes and being exposed to second-hand smoke. The more you smoke, the bigger the risk. People who do not smoke can also get lung cancer, but their risk is much lower.
Lung cancer is more common in older people (aged over 65). Younger people do get lung cancer, but it is more rare.
People who have worked with asbestos have a higher risk of getting run cancer.
Genetics & Family History
People with a parent, brother or sister with lung cancer have a higher risk of developing it themselves. This may be because families often have shared risk factors such as smoking, or it can also be caused by a lung cancer gene that runs in the family.
It is rare, but sometimes contact with certain chemicals and substances through workplaces (e.g. miners) can increase the risk of lung cancer.
Research shows that air pollution (e.g. smog) may increase the risk of lung cancer.
While not all risks are avoidable, you can take proactive care of your health and addressing the above lifestyle factors that are in your control, can be an effective way to reduce your risks.
Lung Foundation New Zealand use the anagram BREATHE to identify the most common signs of lung cancer:
B – Blood when you cough or spit
R – Recurring respiratory infections
E – Enduring cough is new or different
A – Aches or pain in the shoulder, back or chest
T – Trouble breathing
H – Hoarseness or wheezing
E – Exhaustion, weakness or loss of appetite
Many lung cancers are now treatable, and people can survive if it is caught early. So it’s important to know and look out for potential symptoms that could help you identify and catch it early on. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea for you to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Lung cancer is a significant illness that requires prompt action and having health insurance can give you priority access to diagnostics, specialists and treatment should the worst happen.
Article courtesy of NIB – We assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this site. The information contained in this article is provided on an “as is” basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.
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