November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, aimed at improving people’s overall knowledge of lung cancer. There are typical signs and symptoms you can look out for, as well as tips to be mindful of in regards to your general health. As people become more aware of the facts and details about lung cancer, over time the large numbers of those being diagnosed will hopefully fall.
Why do we need to raise awareness?
In the UK, the current rate for someone to survive more than 10 years after being diagnosed with lung cancer is 5%. With the majority of patients being diagnosed at a stage when it is too late to be offered treatment, it is vital that people are more aware of symptoms in order to spot the signs early on. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- A persistent cough that doesn’t go away after a few weeks
- Regular chest infections
- Pain when coughing, breathing or swallowing
- Feeling breathless and/or unable to breathe deeply
- Coughing up phlegm and/or blood
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Unexplained weight loss and/or loss of appetite
- Wheezing and a hoarse voice
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, visit your GP. The likelihood is that it is nothing serious, but it is best to have it checked out – if it is lung cancer, being diagnosed in the early stages could save your life. Your GP will examine you, and if they suspect cancer you will be referred for a chest x-ray primarily, followed by a visit to the chest specialist. If you are diagnosed, you will promptly be referred to a lung cancer team for treatment and care.
How do I reduce my risk of getting lung cancer?
There are multiple changes you can make which will improve your chances of never contracting lung cancer, mainly based around living a health-conscious lifestyle. For example:
- Ask your GP for help to stop smoking. There are numerous organisations who are funded by the NHS to help you stop smoking free of charge. Additionally, if you don’t smoke but are surrounded by second hand smoke on a regular basis, make sure this is reduced as much as possible.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, and reduce the amount of alcohol you drink as much as possible. Also, reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt you consume, and increase the portions of fruit and vegetables you eat. The minimum you should be eating on a daily basis is five portions.
- Exercise regularly - cardio (such as running and cycling) is perfect for increasing your lung capacity. As a result you will be able to inhale more oxygen, burn more calories and have more energy; not to mention decreasing your risk of getting lung cancer.
By raising awareness about lung cancer, the number of those being diagnosed in the early stages will increase and those being diagnosed at terminal stage will start to fall. Look out for the signs and symptoms, and be mindful of your diet choices. It is never too early to improve your lifestyle in order to benefit your health.