November is lung cancer awareness month. Lung cancer and smoking is something frequently discussed on my blog so this post will be really brief and just go over the key facts!
The lungs are part of the respiratory system and their main job is to bring oxygen into the body and pass it into the bloodstream.
The Respiratory System:
* The trachea (windpipe) divides up into two airways with one going into each lung. These are called the left main bronchus and the right main bronchus,
* These pipes are divided into smaller tubes inside the lung – two on the left and three of the right. These smaller tubes are known as the secondary bronchi
- The secondary bronchi are then divided again into even smaller tubes called bronchioles
- At the end of the bronchioles there are tiny air sacs called alveoli in which oxygen is passed into the bloodstream and passed around the body. At the same time carbon dioxide comes into the alveoli from the bloodstream ready to be breathed out.
Causes of Lung Cancer and Risk Factors:
Cancer of the lung is the second most common type in the UK. It is one of the few cancers that has very clear causes.
SMOKING causes 9/10 cases of lung cancer. I’ve done posts about smoking before so I won’t go into detail but the majority of lung cancer patients are smokers or former smokers. AS SOON AS YOU STOP SMOKING YOUR RISK OF LUNG CANCER STARTS TO GO DOWN SO IT IS ALWAYS WORTH GIVING UP
Being exposed to radon gas is can also increase your risk of lung cancer as well as exposure to certain other chemicals. Air pollution, past cancer treatment and a family history of lung cancer can also increase your risk.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer:
The most common symptoms are:
Having a persistant cough
Being short of breath
A change in a cough you have had for a long while
Coughing up phlegm with traces of blood
Pain when breathing in
Pain when coughing
Loss of appetite
Less common symptoms are:
A hoarse voice
A swollen face or neck
Treating Lung Cancer:
There are a number of factors to be considered before your specialist will decide on the right treatment plan for you. These include the type of lung cancer you have, the grade and stage of it, your general health and the position of the cancer in your lung.
Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy are common treatments for lung cancer. Surgery may also be an option depending on where your cancer is in your lung.
It saddens to me to know that so many cases of lung cancer can be prevented if people didn’t smoke. The fact that lung cancer is the second most common cancer type in the UK and that 9/10 of lung cancer patients are smokers is the reason behind all the tobacco control campaigns Cancer Research UK do. We can lower the numbers significantly if people take advice offered to them and quit smoking. Going cold turkey will not be anywhere near as painful as lung cancer.
If you are looking to quit then here is a handy timeline for you to see how your body will repair the damage smoking has caused over time
20 Minutes After Your Last Cigarette – the temperate of your hands and feet has returned to normal and so has your blood pressure and your pulse rate.
8 Hours After Your Last Cigarette – The nicotine levels in your bloodstream has reduced by 93.25% which is just 6.25% of your normal daily level at the peak of smoking.
12 Hours After Your Last Cigarette – Your carbon monoxide levels have dropped to normal whilst your blood oxygen levels have increased to normal.
24 Hours After Your Last Cigarette – Your anxiety level will have peaked in its intensity, making you crave a cigarette – this will return to a normal level within two weeks.
48 Hours After Your Last Cigarette – Your nerve endings which have been damaged by smoking will be starting to regrow. Your sense of smell and taste will begin to return to a normal level. Your anger and irritability levels will have peaked, making you very agitated.
72 Hours After Your Last Cigarette – You will be entirely 100% nicotine free!!!! On top of that you will have passed over 90% of all the chemicals nicotine breaks down into (nicotine metabolites) via your urine. Breathing is becoming easier for you and your lungs are being to increase in function. Your lung bronchial tubes which lead to your alveoli (air sacs) are beginning to relax as your body recovers. On the downside, your chemical withdrawal symptoms have peaked in their intensity and you will feel restless amongst other things.
5 to 8 Days After Your Last Cigarette – You will encounter an average of three cue induced craving episodes per day at this time. These shouldn't last longer then a few minutes.
10 Days After Your Last Cigarette – You will encounter less then two cue induced craving episodes lasting no longer then three minutes.
10 Days to Two Weeks After Your Last Cigarette – You should be at the point where your addiction isn’t controlling you anymore. The blood circulation in your teeth and gums will become similar to that of a non smoker.
2 to 4 Weeks After Your Last Cigarette – You should no longer be feeling any anger, anxiety, impatience, insomnia, depression, restlessness or finding it difficult to concentrate due to your withdrawal from cigarettes. If you do then you should make an appointment to have these symptoms assessed by a doctor.
2 Weeks to 3 Months After Your Last Cigarette – Your risk of a heart attack is starting to drop and your lung function is beginning to improve.
3 Weeks to 3 Months After Your Last Cigarette – Your circulation should be improving significantly. Walking will become easier. If you had a chronic cough as a smoker then it should be almost all gone (see a doctor if it hasn’t by this point).
8 Weeks After Your Last Cigarette – Your Insulin resistance will have normalised and you may have gained a little weight (the average weight gain at this point is 2.7kg).
1 to 9 Months After Your Last Cigarette – Cilia will have regrown in your lungs which means your lungs should have an increased ability to handle mucus, keep themselves clean and reduce infections. Your body’s overall energy level will have increased. Any shortness of breath, fatigue and sinus congestion related to smoking will have decreased significantly.
1 Year After Your Last Cigarette – Your heightened risk of coronary heart disease, heart attacks and stokes will have decreased to less then half of what it was when you smoked.
5 Years After Your Last Cigarette – Your risk of a subarachnoid hemorrhage has declined to 59% of what it was when you smoked. Female ex smokers will now find their risk of developing diabetes has decreased to that of a non smoker.
5 to 15 Years After Your Last Cigarette – Your risk of having a stroke has decreased to that of a non smoker.
10 Years After Your Last Cigarette – Your risk of developing lung cancer has decreased to 30-50% of a smoker. Risk of dying from lung cancer has decreased by about half. Your risk of developing cancer of the mouth, pancreas, throat and oesophagus has declined significantly. Risk of developing diabetes has decreased to a similar level for a non smoker for both male and female former smokers.
13 Years After Your Last Cigarette – The risk of losing teeth related to your smoking will have declined to the same level as someone who has never smoked.
15 Years After Your Last Cigarette – Your risk of developing coronary heart disease is now the same as a person who have never smoked as is your risk of developing cancer of the pancreas.
20 Years After Your Last Cigarette – The risk of a female former smoker dying from a smoking related illness will have reduced to the same level as someone who has never smoked.
If you are attempting to quit smoking or have managed to do so then I salute you. I would highly recommend keeping an eye on how much money you are saving by not smoking as that is also a great incentive to keep going when the craving are driving you crazy. Let me know how you get on and I wish you luck!
For more information on lung cancer please visit www.cancerresearchuk.org.uk
For information about quitting, please contact your local NHS Stop Smoking service