The nicotine-filled swirl that leaves a lit cigarette is one of the most common causes of lung cancer â€“ a disease responsible for one of the most debilitating and deadly cancers in the world. Although in the United States, lung cancer is a well-known leading cause of death in both men and women, thousands of people overlook the threat and continue to follow detrimental behaviors.
Overall, the more cigarettes you smoke on a daily basis, the greater the risk of developing this type of cancer. However, you donâ€™t even have to smoke to become affected â€“ second-hand smoke also attacks the lungs and causes damage. Exposure to radiation, high levels of pollution, and asbestos can also increase your risk. In order to thwart this highly preventable disease, consider the techniques and lifestyle changes that can lessen your chances of developing the condition that claims more lives each year than all breast, prostate, colon, and lymph cancers combined.
What is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is a disease that causes tissue in the lungs to grow out of control. As a result, adjacent tissue becomes affected and can wreak havoc in other parts of the body. The majority of lung cancer patients suffer from carcinomas of the lung, which involves epithelial cells. The condition is so serious that across the world, 1.3 million deaths take place on a yearly basis .
When diagnosing lung cancer, there are two major kinds that surface when analyzing cells under a microscope. Depending on the type of cancer displayed, a physician will suggest an appropriate line of treatment. Small cell lung cancer (sometimes referred to as oat cell carcinoma) takes place in almost all heavy smokers and is less common than non-small cell lung cancer, which includes an assortment of lung-related conditions like large cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
In the early stages of lung cancer, there are no typical signs and symptoms, as indications of the disease usually surface when the condition has entered an advanced stage. Possible signs and symptoms associated with lung cancer include :
a) Persistent Cough:
When a new bout of coughing appears for no apparent reason and doesnâ€™t go away, it is suggested to test for lung cancer if you are a smoker. Another signal to note occurs if you have been experiencing changes in a chronic cough due to your smoking habit (often known as “smoker’s cough”).
b) Coughing Blood:
Coughing up blood (even if the slightest amount) is a sign to contact your physician.
c) Breathing Difficulty:
Shortness of breath is another sign of lung cancer. An individual may experience wheezing and their voice may become hoarse.
A person with lung cancer may feel pain in their chest.
After making an appointment with a physician, they will use chest x-rays and computed tomography (CT scan) to detect the presence of lung cancer. A diagnosis is then confirmed through a biopsy, which is usually performed with a bronchoscopy or CT-guided procedure. If one tests positive for lung cancer, treatment may include surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. With treatment, a patient is looking towards a five-year survival rate of 14% .
The Causes of Lung Cancer
With the development of lung cancer, the cells lining your lungs first become affected. While the majority of lung cancers are associated with smoking tobacco products, people who have never smoked a cigarette in their life have received a lung cancer diagnosis. In this case, the definite cause for the cancer is often unknown, but some doctors factor in other possible sources, such as asbestos, radon gas, air pollution, secondhand smoke exposure, and genetic complications.
Radon gas is colorless and odorless, generated after the breakdown of the radioactive element of radium (the decay product of uranium), which is located in the earth’s crust. At times, genetic material forms with mutations that cause cancer in some people. After smoking, radon exposure is the second major cause of lung cancer. In the United States, Iowa possesses the highest average radon concentration, where residents face a 50% increased chance of lung cancer. Asbestos is behind a host of lung diseases, including lung cancer, which is responsible for about 2 to 4% of male lung cancer deaths in the United Kingdom .
Lung Cancer Risk Factors 
The risks associated with lung cancer depend on a number of factors that are controllable (like kicking the smoking habit) and uncontrollable, such as your gender. The most glaring include:
The greatest risk factor linked to lung cancer is smoking, which increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and the number of years you have been a smoker. The good news is that quitting at any age can drastically lower your chances of developing lung cancer.
A woman who currently or used to smoke is at a greater risk for lung cancer than her male counterparts. The reason for this is not clear, but it is believed that women possess a higher vulnerability to the substances found in tobacco that cause cancer. Another theory deals with the estrogen within the female body. Other factors include studies that reveal that women are known to inhale more than men do and they are less likely to kick the habit.
c) Family History:
If your mother, father, or sibling is diagnosed with lung cancer, you may face an increased risk for the disease.
d) Secondhand Smoke:
Live with a smoker and face the risk of damaging your lungs and increasing your chances for lung cancer.
e) Workplace Conditions:
If you work around asbestos and other substances known to cause cancer (like nickel, chromium, and tar soot), you face the increased risk of developing lung cancer that only worsens if you are also a smoker.
f) Alcohol Intake:
An individual who has more than one alcoholic drink per day (female) or two drinks per day (male) faces the possibility of an increased risk.
The Negative Effects of Lung Cancer
Besides the fact that lung cancer is a serious and deadly disease, a handful of complications are associated with the condition. Patients may experience fluid in the chest (called pleural effusion), where fluid gathers in the space surrounding the lungs in the chest cavity. Once the cancer spreads to the pleura, surgery is no longer an option for treatment.
Lung cancer may spread to other parts of the body, which is called metastatis. The most commonly affected body parts include the bones, liver, brain, adrenal glands, and the opposite lung. A patient will experience a variety of signs and symptoms, including nausea, intense headaches, and pain. The worst effect of lung cancer is death, as most cases are fatal. Nearly 60% (three out of five people) will lose their life to lung cancer within a year of diagnosis.
How to Prevent Lung Cancer
When it comes to combating lung cancer, prevention is one of the most cost-effective ways to make sure the condition doesnâ€™t completely ravage the body. Some prevention measures for lung disease include:
a) Quit Smoking:
While this prevention measure goes without saying, many people still ignore the facts that smoking cessation is one of the most significant preventative tools against lung cancer. Today, there are plenty of stop-smoking aids to consider, including medication, nicotine replacement products, gums, mints, and support groups.
b) Support No-Smoking Policies:
Despite an overwhelming resistance, you can still show support regarding various no-smoking policies that occasional emerge that try to limit, control, or eliminate smoking in public. Also, when it’s time to voice your opinion, let it be heard at public forums and online discussion boards.
c) Stay Away from Secondhand Smoke:
If your roommate is a smoker or you work with a smoker, kindly request that they take their smoke breaks outside. You can also seek smoke-free establishments, such as hotels, bars, and restaurants.
d) Radon Testing:
Checking for radon levels in the home is a good way to prevent a silent killer from causing cancer in your lungs.
e) Protect Against Workplace Chemicals:
If your employment places you in an environment where you are exposed to chemicals, make sure to wear the proper protective gear, such as a facemask.
f) Get Moving:
Seek out at least 30 minutes of exercise throughout the week to keep the lungs fresh and healthy. Swimming at the local YMCA, walking around the block, or biking to the store are great ways to increase your level of physical activity.
g) Limit Alcohol Intake:
It is suggested to consume alcohol in moderation and stick to one drink per day if you are a female and two drinks if you are a male. Once you reach the age of 65 or older, drinking no more than one drink per day is highly recommended.
h) Healthy Diet:
A diet packed with fruits and vegetables supplies the vitamins and nutrients that can reduce the risk of lung cancer. Just make sure you donâ€™t overdo it with large doses or you stand to suffer unwanted side effects.
i) Herbal Approaches:
In order to build a resistance to infection in the lungs, herbal antiseptics and antibiotics, such as garlic, can help .
Studies reveal that heavy smokers stand a chance of reducing their risk for lung cancer by taking a beta-carotene supplement.
k) Chemoprevention :
Although not yet considered a standard form of therapy, clinical research suggests that using a specific natural or man-made drug to suppress, reverse, or prevent cancer growth can prove beneficial in avoiding lung cancer. This approach is referred to as chemoprevention.
 Minna, JD (2004). Harrison’s Principle’s of Internal Medicine. McGraw-Hill, 506â€“516.
 Darnton, AJ; McElvenny DM, Hodgson JT (Jan 2006). “Estimating the number of asbestos-related lung cancer deaths in Great Britain from 1980 to 2000″. Annals of Occupational Hygiene 50 (1): 29â€“38.
 The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevelier (pg. 13)