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What is it?
The lungs are fundamental to human existence as they enable us to breathe. Lung cancer occurs when there is abnormal cell growth in the lungs. Like other cancer these cells may become a tumour and eventually spread throughout the body. Damage to the lung impacts the ability to breathe.
There are two main types of lung cancer. The more common type is known as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and accounts for around 85-90% of cases. The second type is small cell lung cancer (SCLC). SCLC begins in the middle of the lungs and spreads faster than NSCLC.3
NSCLC has three variants: Adenocarcinoma is the most common lung cancer diagnosed in smokers and non-smokers. Squamous cell (epidermoid) carcinoma usually develops in the larger airways of the lung. Large cell undifferentiated carcinoma may begin in several types of cells and can appear in any part of the lung.3
It is important to understand that anyone can get lung disease.
Lung cancer is a relatively common disease but the symptoms can be vague and appear similar to other conditions.
Signs may include a new cough that has persisted for three weeks or more, a changed cough, shortness of breath, a hoarse voice, a recurring chest infection, chest pain, coughing up blood, loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss and fatigue.4
There are currently no routine screening tests for lung cancer but early assessment is very important. A number of tests may be required to diagnose the condition.
The greatest risk factor for lung cancer is smoking cigarettes, pipes or cigars.5
Other factors that are linked to developing lung cancer include exposure to second-hand smoke, prior personal or family history, radiotherapy treatment to the chest, a history of other lung diseases such as tuberculosis, fungal infections of the lungs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and HIV infection.5
Exposure to certain workplace substances and air pollutants like asbestos fibres, radon, uranium, chromium, nickel, diesel fumes, soot and tar are further risks.5
Protect yourself: Minimise risk
The first step to protect yourself against lung cancer is to understand your risk factors.
• Do not smoke or try to quit if you are a smoker. Avoid second-hand smoke.
• Know your family history.
• Cancer Australia has produced a short video titled, What’s your cough telling you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3FSjAgMF70
• If you work in an occupation that is exposed to any of the listed substances, take the necessary precautions to protect yourself.
• Knowing your risk, consider whether you have adequate insurance (e.g., life, trauma, total & permanent disability, income protection) to protect what you value most in life.
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