Lung expert debunks misconceptions around lung cancer
Lung cancer is Australia’s biggest cancer killer, killing more Australians than breast and bowel cancers combined.
This month marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month and researchers at the Institute for Respiratory Health, are highlighting the many misconceptions around lung cancer – it isn’t necessarily a smoker’s disease. Misconceptions include:
Lung cancer is always caused by smoking:
Although smoking can increase your chances of developing lung cancer, it isn’t the only cause.
Dr Yuben Moodley said, “There are some lung cancers which are genetic and may not be related to smoking. Others are caused by exposure to substances like asbestos, radon gas and passive smoking.
“Globally about 10 per cent of people who get lung cancer have never smoked.”
You can’t reverse lung damage from smoking:
There are immediate benefits to quitting smoking at any age, with the largest reduction in health risks to those who quit the earliest. Some harmful effects from smoking cannot be reversed like emphysema. But if you stop smoking there will still be benefits including:
- After 12 hours, almost all nicotine will be out of your system.
- After 24 hours, the level of carbon monoxide in your blood will drop dramatically and you will have more oxygen in your bloodstream.
- Within one month, your blood pressure returns to its normal level and your immune system begins to show signs of recovery.
- After two months, your lungs will no longer be producing extra phlegm caused by smoking.
- After one year, your risk of dying of heart disease is half of what it would have been if you kept smoking.
Lung cancer only affects older people:
Professor Yuben Moodley said, “Most people develop lung cancer in their 60s and 70s but occasionally people get lung cancer at a much younger age – in their 20 and 30s.
“The most important thing is to detect it early through screening.”
Lung cancer is always deadly:
While the overall survival of lung cancer is low, some people live many more years than expected after a lung cancer diagnosis. Prognosis depends on the type and stage of lung cancer as well as other things including age and general health.
“Thanks to research, such as clinical trials, conducted at the Institute for Respiratory Health, there are now many more effective treatments for lung cancer than we had previously, “Professor Yuben Moodley said.
“We have seen an increase in survival rates and also the quality of life for people diagnosed with lung cancer.
“Lung cancer screening also increases the chances of finding lung cancer in its earlier and most curable stage.
“It is often detected too late, when treatment options are limited, which is why screening is so essential to help save lives.”
Whether you smoke or not, it’s important to look out for the symptoms of lung cancer – like a cough lasting longer than two or three weeks, recurring chest infections, breathlessness or aches and pains when breathing. If you have any concerns see your doctor.