Am I at risk for getting lung cancer?
There are number of factors that increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Some lung cancer risk factors can be controlled by quitting smoking and other factors like your family history cannot be controlled. These include:
- Smoking: Your risk of lung cancer rises with the number of cigarettes you smoke every day and how many years you smoked. Stopping at any age will greatly reduce the risk of developing lung cancer
- Exposure to second-hand smoke: The risk of lung cancer increases if you do not smoke and if you are exposed to second-hand or passive smoke
- Previous radiation therapy: If you have had radiation treatment to your chest for another form of cancer, there could be an increased risk of developing lung cancer
- Exposure to radon gas: The natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water releases radon which gradually becomes part of the air you breathe. Unsafe radon levels can accumulate in the air increasing the risk of lung cancer
- Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens: Workplace exposure to asbestos and other cancer-causing substances-such as arsenic, chromium and nickel-can increase the risk of developing lung cancer especially if you are a smoker
- Family history of lung cancer: If a family member such as siblings, child or parents had the history of lung cancer then you have an increased risk of the disease
What are the complications of lung cancer?
Lung cancer can cause complications such as:
- Shortness of breath: If cancer grows to block the main airways, patients with lung cancer may experience shortness of breath. Lung cancer can also cause fluid to accumulate around the lungs and make it more difficult for the affected lung to completely expand when you inhale. Treatments are available for draining the fluid out of the chest and reduce the risk of pleural effusion
- Coughing up blood: Lung cancer can cause airway bleeding which can cause blood cough (hemoptysis). Bleeding can get serious at times. There are various treatments available to control bleeding
- Pain: Advanced lung cancer that spreads to the lining of the lung or to another body parts such as a bone may cause pain. Tell your doctor if you feel discomfort as he may recommend pain relief medications
- Pleural effusion: Lung cancer may cause fluid to accumulate in the space in the chest cavity that surrounds the affected lung (pleural space)
- Metastatic cancer: Lung cancer also spreads (metastasizes) to other body parts such as the brain and bones. Depending on which organ is affected, symptoms such as pain, nausea, headaches or other signs can appear. It is usually not curable once lung cancer has spread beyond the lungs. There are therapies available to reduce signs and symptoms, and to help you live longer.