By Dr. Neelesh Reddy, Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital Yeshwanthpur
With the increase in pollution levels throughout the country and the rise in the number of smokers, lung cancer has become more prevalent in the younger age groups. It is no longer limited to smokers to develop this type of cancer and a lot of non-smokers and passive smokers are also falling prey to it. Air pollution is considered to be a major attributor for lung cancer in India, especially among the people below the age group of 40.
Rapid urbanization with rise in vehicle use, increased construction activities, plastic burning, stubble burning in few parts of the country has increased the PM level in the air thereby leading to multiple lung related issues. Using coal, wood fire for cooking in few pockets of the rural areas has also exposed people to heavy smoke inside the house. Tobacco usage, lack of awareness about lung problems are leading to increased lung cancer cases in the country.
The number of non-smokers with lung cancer is rising every year. Sedentary lifestyle along with obesity, alcohol consumption is also adding to the risk factor. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the reasons for lung cancer and take the necessary precautions to avoid this.
Lung cancer is the fourth largest killer in India and the major reason for this is the lack of awareness and ignorance by people. Early diagnosis plays a big role in determining how a cancer progresses in your body. Early detection not only reduces its effect but also helps you treat and recover fully. Late detection or late diagnosis at an advanced stage can reduce the chances of the cancer getting better.
Listed below are the few early symptoms of lung cancer which gets ignored by many.
· Persistent cough: Be on alert when you develop a cough and it stays for long. Cough associated with cold or other respiratory infection will get cured in a week or two. A stubborn cough can be an indication of a serious health problem.
· Change in cough: Pay attention to the way you cough – chronic cough, particularly if you smoke. If you’re coughing more often, your cough is deeper or sounds hoarse, or you’re coughing up blood or an unusual amount of mucus it is advised to get tested.
· Change in breathing: Shortness of breath can also be a symptom of lung cancer. Changes in pace of breathing can occur if lung cancer blocks or narrows an airway, or if fluid from a lung tumor builds up in the chest.
· Wheezing: When airways become inflamed or blocked, there will be a whistle sort of sound when you breathe.
· Pain in the chest: Chronic cough can lead to chest pain and also a person in the initial stages of lung cancer can develop pain near the chest, shoulder and back.
· Unintended weight loss: A sudden weight loss is always concerning. Due to the energy taken away by the cancer cells one might feel unexplained weight loss during this time.
· Bone pain: An unrecognised or untreated lung cancer can spread to bones and may produce pain and the back and other body parts. This pain may worsen during night, when you rest on your back.
Following are the few tips which can help in avoiding lung cancer
1. Quit smoking –Smoking can lead to several lung related problems. Therefore, it is advised to stop smoking.
2. Avoid passive smoke – If your family members or friends smoke, convince them to quit. Also, do not be around them while they smoke.
3. Avoid pollution: Wear a mask when you step out of the house to save you from air pollution
4. Beware of indoor pollution: Using any kind of chemicals inside the house, exposure to the pollutants inside the house needs to be avoided
5. Exercise regularly: Sedentary lifestyle can lead to several health problems. Regular exercise for 30 minutes everyday helps in maintain good lung health
6. Eat nutritious food: Choose a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Food with vitamins and nutrients are recommended. Avoid taking large doses of vitamins in supplements form.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with lung disease, consult the doctor immediately. In most cases the ignorance and delay in diagnosis is the cause for increased mortality.