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Goodbye to Tobacco to Prevent Lung Cancer

This pathology affects smokers 20 times more, so breaking this habit that is so harmful to our health is essential.

More than 25,000 lung cancer cases are diagnosed in Spain each year. This disease is the second cause of death in this country following cardiovascular diseases.

Tobacco as the main risk factor is behind 90% of all cases. In fact, the danger of smokers getting lung cancer - the third most common type of tumour in Spain behind colon and prostate- is up to 20 times higher than for non-smokers, according to the Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC).

Cigarette use

To this end, the Spanish Association of Lung Cancer Victims offers two more bits of data regarding the relationship between this disease and tobacco: 85% of all deaths from this disease are related to cigarette use and 10-15% of all regular smokers will get it.

However, tobacco smoke does not only affect smokers. Passive smoking is estimated to be behind 20% of all lung cancer cases in non-smokers.

Other risk factors for this disease are air pollution, genetics, age and sex as well as certain chemical substances such as radon and asbestos which affect three times as many men as they do women.

Lung cancer groups

In general, there are two major lung cancer groups: non-small cell or non-microcytic (which represents 85% of all cases) and small-cell or microcytic cancer. They involve completely different tumours as concerns behaviour, treatment and prognostics.

There has been considerable progress in the last decade in cures and survival rates for this disease with the discovery of a group of genetic alterations that enable more efficient treatment. However, it continues to be one of the cancer types with the most limited survival outlook and that is why prevention and early detection are essential just as with any other type of tumour.

Lung cancer symptoms

The main prevention measure against lung cancer is never starting to smoke or quitting. The earlier you stop, the more possibilities the body has to recover from the negative effects. It is believed that the risk of developing lung cancer begins to equal out among smokers and former smokers after 10 years of abstention.

Early diagnosis based on symptoms is not easy as they do not usually appear until an advanced phase and many are common to non-malignant diseases.

The Spanish Association against Cancer indicates the following symptoms should be checked by a family doctor:

  • Persistent coughing. This symptom gets worse in patients (normally smokers) who already had coughing issues due to respiratory problems.
  • Blood in sputum.
  • Dyspnoea: the patient begins noticing sense of a lack of air that prevents them from making any effort.
  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing.
  • Other symptoms: voice changes, noises when breathing, a feeling food gets stopped halfway down the chest, fatigue, bone pain, a loss of appetite or weight.

  • It is important to remember that just a few years ago, the main medical associations included low-radiation-dose CT as a screening method for people at risk.