Who can get lung cancer?
- Active Smoking: Undoubtedly the biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer is smoking! On inhaling the smoke, the toxic substances in it damage the lung tissues which can eventually lead to lung cancer. The risk increases with increased packs of cigarettes smoked.
- Passive Smoking: Inhaling smoke released by another active smoker is even more dangerous than active smoking. Being in an environment with a lot of smokers, even non-smokers are at a high risk for developing lung cancer.
- High Risk Professions: Individuals employed in coal belts, sand factories or other similar industries which can result in inhalation of fine particles are also at high risk.
- Radiation exposure: Any sort of radiation exposure (specially in lab technicians, scientists, past cancer patients etc.) can increase the risk of lung cancer.
- Exposure to asbestos or silica: Both these substances damage the lining tissues in the lung and this insult can lead to development of cancer.
- Family history: Any individual with a close relative suffering from lung cancer is automatically at a risk for developing lung cancer in the future.
- Nutrition: Certain food items like burnt toast, excessive radon or arsenic in drinking water can also lead to development of lung cancer.
Prevention of Lung Cancer
- Stop smoking! Quitting smoking at any age significantly brings down the risk level of the individual as well as his/her family members.
- Try to actively avoid passive smoking.
- Wear a mask (N-95) when pollution is high to prevent insult to the lungs.
- Use proper protective equipment if undergoing any radiation procedure.
- Go for regular screening procedures as well as get water supply tested periodically to monitor arsenic levels.
How to identify signs of lung cancer?
- Unexplained weight loss: The most identifiable feature is a sudden drop of weight and should always be taken seriously.
- Shortness of breath: The individual has to exert to breathe and feels light-headed.
- Cough: Persistent cough, specially tinged with blood should raise suspicions.
- Wheezing: A whistling sound if produced on breathing can be one of the symptoms.
- Tiredness: Increased fatigability and tiredness is always a cause for concern and should be screened for various malignancies.
- Bone pain
- Persistent headache
- Chest pain
When to contact a doctor?
Individuals who satisfy the below points should contact a doctor as soon as possible for a timely diagnosis and treatment:
- !5-80 years of age
- Chronically smoke or have smoked in the past
- Have symptoms like unexplained weight loss, cough with blood, shortness of breath
What can be done at home?
Alongside medicinal treatment, it is important to take certain steps at home which can help an individual recover holistically from a disease like lung cancer.
- Breathing Exercises: To help regain the strength of lung tissues, breathing exercises are recommended to be practiced daily. While sitting with the back straight, inhale air slowly through the nose, hold and release through the nose. Repeat this multiple times.
- Stretching: Stretching helps increase blood flow to the body, improving healing and also alleviates anxiety. Stretch and move the upper limb joints as per their range of motion to avoid stiffness.
- Aerobic Exercises: Brisk walking, jogging, swimming can help regain the lung tissue strength and also promotes blood supply to the various organs. Care should be taken to not injure oneself and to start a new exercise under guidance of a therapist.
- Strength Training: Strength training exercises can help regain normalcy in life and makes an individual capable of returning back to daily chores.
Note: Always consult a therapist before starting any exercise. Stop any activity which may cause discomfort.
- Quit smoking: Cessation of smoking with immediate effect can help the body heal faster.
- Diet: Increased intake of fresh fruits, vegetables, clean water and reducing consumption of fast food can help achieve a healthier lifestyle and cope up with the disease.
- Exercise: Daily brisk exercise and improve the circulation to the muscles as well as lungs, allowing them to heal from past insults.
- Educate oneself from valid resources and do not believe in hear-say stories.
- Individual as well as the family should be counselled to mitigate the concerns and fears. It is only natural to feel anxious about the outcome of such a disease but keeping a positive outlook not only helps recover but also cope with a disease.
- Proper psychiatric or psychological help should be taken if the individual feels anxious, there is loss of interest in activities previously found pleasurable, loss of appetite, change in sleeping patterns etc.
- Attempts should be made to keep oneself busy by developing some hobbies to keep the mind free from anxiety.
- Practice meditation.
- Join a support group with other fellow patients. Not only does this help in coming to terms with the disease, but also helps in establishing trust and hope for any patient.
- Medicines: Medical science has evolved enough to be able to control the growth of cancerous tissues with various anticancer medicines. It is preferred in those individuals who do not show any metastasis of the cancer.
- Surgery: Lung cancers can also be operated on and removed from the body.
- Radiotherapy: Radiation can help destroy the cancerous tissues and is highly effective.
- Lifestyle Modifications: A change in diet, daily exercise and no smoking can help improve the outcome of the treatment.
- Counselling: In a disease like lung cancer, it is important to educate the patient and his/her family, mitigate their doubts and concerns, and give them emotional support to tide over the illness.
This article is meant to guide and educate the patients. All medical treatment is to be undertaken under the guidance of expert medical service providers only.