The cancer that causes the highest number of deaths among men is lung cancer. It is also becoming morend more widespread among women. In Switzerland, there are about 3 200 new cases every year. Smoking is the single biggest risk factor, with 90% of cases being attributable to cigarette smoke. It is not until a very advanced stage of the illness that symptoms (e.g. coughing, breathing difficulties, coughing up blood, and weight loss) appear. Treatment depends on the type of cancer, and can be an operation, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. Recovery rates are mediocre, since only 13% of lung cancer sufferers are still alive five years after being diagnosed.
Lung cancer and respiratory problems
moking alone is responsible for nine out of ten cases of lung cancer!
Burning tobacco can reach a temperature of 850°C. The hot cigar or cigarette smoke that a smoker breathes in progressively alters the protective layer of mucous in the bronchi and paralyses the tiny protective hairs. As the person continues to smoke, the hairs become damaged and eventually disappear (see the photos). It becomes impossible for the lungs to expel secretions and all the little polluting particles that are breathed in. Coughing therefore becomes the only means of partially eliminate mucous and particles. In the final phase, persistent irritation radically transforms the mucous lining and promotes “airway mucous metaplaysia” which lays the foundations for cancer. Instead of staying in a single layer, the cells begin to pile up. Even after a person has completely smoking, this metaplaysia takes more than a year to go away!
Lung cancer frequently produces no symptoms in the beginning. It is often discovered only when cancerous cells spread to other parts of the body such as the brain, bones, or liver. However, lung cancer can manifest itself in the following ways:
- A cough that becomes chronic or suddenly changes
- Coughing up blood or blood-stained sputum
- Persistent respiratory infections
- Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
- Prolonged fever
- Pain in the ribcage
- Sudden weight loss
Methods of Diagnosis
- Lung X-ray
- Fiberoptic endoscopy or bronchoscopy: the doctor introduces a tube fitted with a microcamera and small instruments through the trachea and into the bronchi in order to view the lesions and collect samples for laboratory analysis.
- Surgical intervention to remove the cancerous cells
- Radiotherapy (rays) and/or chemotherapy (injection of drugs)
The only treatment that really works is prevention. While treatment only helps to cure 1 lung cancer sufferer in 10, removing smoking from the equation would prevent 9 out of 10 instances of the disease!
Causes of lung cancer
- Smoking (the main cause!)
- Exposure in the work place to radon (a radioactive product), asbestos, arsenic or nickel
- Air pollution
For people who are diagnosed with lung cancer:
The 1-year survival rate is 40.5%
The 5-year survival rate is 14.2%
Lung cancer represents 11.5% of cancers that affect adults (15.8% for men and 7.1% for women). In Switzerland, the incidence of lung cancer is 87 in 100 000.
Lung cancer represents 17% of deaths from cancer (24.1% for men and 10.3% for women). In Geneva, Switzerland, it is the third most deadly cancer among women (after breast cancer and colon cancer) and the most deadly cancer among men.
A smoker who smokes one packet of cigarettes per day in his or her lifetime will consume more than 500 000 cigarettes! Given that a cigarette contains 0.01g of particles, that adds up to over 5 kg of toxic particles deposited in the lungs!
Find out more
- Ligue suisse contre le cancer
- Ligue nationale contre le cancer (France)
- Belgian cancer foundation: http://www.cancer.be/
- Eat healthily to reduce your risk of cancer: document PDF (in French)
- Le cancer du poumon : causes, symptômes, diagnostic, traitement, pronostic / Rolf A. Stahel, Berne : Ligue suisse contre le cancer, cop. 1997
- Cancer du poumon : connaître et agir / éd.: W. Weber, I. Rajower, P. Kleihues ; trad.: M. Laffite, B. Von Arx, Berne : Office fédéral de la santé publique : Ligue suisse contre le cancer, cop. 1999
- Witschi H. and all., Lung tumor response in strain a mice exposed to tobacco smoke: some dose-effect relationships, Inhal Toxicol. 2004 Jan;16(1):27-32.