Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lung Cancer Awareness

November has been designated as Lung Cancer Awareness Month by the Lung Cancer Alliance. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be over 226,000 new cases of lung cancer, and over 160,000 deaths from lung cancer, within the year 2012 alone. Clearly this is a disease that we need to know more about and become more active in combating.

Lung cancer specifically forms on the lung tissue and cells lining the air passageways, and there are actually two types - small and non-small cell - based upon how the cells appear under a microscope. The Lung Cancer Organization has a link to a documentary that provides more in-depth information about the disease. One thing that is important to remember is that, while smoking cigarettes is definitely a risk factor for lung cancer, there are many other risk factors that individuals should be alert for, such as

  • exposure to asbestos, radon, or other industrial substances
  • radiation exposure
  • air pollution
  • tuberculosis, and
  • genetic predisposure
Some of the symptoms that individuals experiencing lung cancer may exhibit are
  • coughing (especially persistent and/or intense coughing)
  • pain in the chest, should, or back unrelated to pain caused by coughing
  • changes in color or volume of sputum
  • shortness of breath
  • changes in voice or a hoarse voice
  • harsh sounds with each breath
  • recurrent lung problems (bronchitis or pneumonia)
  • coughing up phlegm
Additionally, individuals may experience symptoms in other parts of their bodies
  • loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • muscle wasting
  • fatigue
  • headaches, bone or joint pain
  • unexplained bone fractures
  • neurological symptoms
  • neck and/or facial swelling
  • general weakness
  • bleeding
  • blood clots (
While some types of lung cancer, such as that caused by genetic factors, are hard to circumvent, there are some things that individuals can do that will help lessen their risk of contracting lung cancer. Stopping smoking and/or reducing exposure to environmental factors that are known to increase risk is your best bet. Additionally, if you or someone you love feels that they may be at risk, you can talk to your doctor about screening techniques that can help identify problems more quickly.

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