Lung Cancer Awareness Month

On 1st November 2010 the UK’s 7th Lung Cancer Awareness Month was launched by Macmillan Cancer Support, Global Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

The aim of the campaign is to educate people about the risks of lung cancer, stress the importance of early detection and to raise awareness in the medical profession with regard to the diagnosis of lung cancer.

39,750 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year and it is the UK’s most lethal cancer.

Early diagnosis is key in the fight against cancer so knowing the early signs and symptoms is crucial:

  • a cough lasting more than 2-3 weeks
  • a change or decline in an existing long term cough
  • coughing up blood (haemoptysis)
  • unexplained and persistent tiredness, breathlessness and/or weight loss
  • persistent chest and/or shoulder pain
  • repeat chest infections

Of course, these symptoms are not solely linked to lung cancer but as part of the Awareness Month, people are urged to get such symptoms checked out by a doctor.

Lung cancer has been called the “invisible disease”. Although it is the largest cause of deaths in the UK due to cancer, it has been found to be one of the cancers people talk about the least. To reflect this, the lung cancer ribbon to show support is transparent or white.

Lung cancer accounts for 23% of all deaths due to cancer in the UK and of this, approximately 6% die due to mesothelioma. Virtually all cases of mesothelioma are linked with asbestos exposure and this is a rare type of cancer. Asbestos exposure has also been linked to lung cancer but the two differ in both their characteristics and causes.

The two cancers manifest in different tissues in the body, mesothelioma attacks the thin membrane called the pleura. This lines the inside of the chest cavity, covering the lungs and other organs. Lung cancer occurs in the lung tissue itself.

Mesothelioma is extremely difficult to remove as it spreads across the lung lining. Lung cancer tends to be large or multiple masses.

Currently, there is no cure for mesothelioma. Lung cancer is more receptive to treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

With regards to asbestos exposure, mesothelioma develops from as little as one fibre of asbestos whereas asbestos lung cancer is generally linked to asbestosis and exposure to vast amounts of asbestos over a sustained period of time.

Nearly 90% of lung cancer cases are linked to smoking and it may be for this reason that cancer does not receive the same level of publicity, support or funding as other cancers. Currently, only 3% of money spent on cancer research goes towards lung cancer. Therefore, the Awareness Month is also being used to try and raise the amount of money invested in research into the disease.