Lung cancer

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UTG Medical Students’ Association

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of the cells of the lungs, the lungs are two spongy organs bilaterally positioned in the chest. They serve a crucial role in the bodies gaseous exchange by permitting the entry of oxygen and release of carbon dioxide, this process among others such as acid-base regulation (PH), respiratory rate and blood pressure makes the lungs a critical organ in the body.

Lung cancer is one of the commonest cancers worldwide, ranking second after skin cancer. It mostly affects the elderly (usually over 65years) with an average age of 70years, it can minimally be found in subjects below 45years with men at a greater risk. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths constituting up to 25 % of all cancers. It is deadlier than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined in terms mortality.

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What causes lung cancer?

Lung cancer is usually not an abrupt process, the body has mechanisms of reversing and repairing damaged cells/tissues but does to a limit, the most important cause of lung cancer is smoking, it exposes the lungs to toxic substances that irritate the cell lining to cause damage thereby, precipitating cancerous growth of cells.

Risk factors

There are other risk factors that could culminate to lung cancer such as; secondhand smoking, the most common in non-smokers, previous radiation exposure from radiotherapy of the chest region, exposure to carcinogenic substances such as asbestos, chromium, nickel and arsenic for industrial workers or local burning of plastic materials in the homes and a family history of lung cancer. All these are factors that increases one’s chance of getting lung cancer.

When should you suspect lung cancer?

There might be no signs or symptoms of lung cancer at the early onset but with progression, the following signs and symptoms might manifest; persistent cough, coughing of blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, headache, hoarseness and sometimes bone pain. Any of these symptoms do not qualify as lung cancer thus, one should report to a doctor for proper investigation and diagnosis.