Lung Cancer – Not Always a Smoker’s Disease

Lung cancer is the fifth most common cancer in WA; nine per cent of cancers in WA are cancer of the lung.¹

In 2014, there were approximately 800 deaths due to lung cancer in WA, and more than 1100 new cases. Although Australia’s rates of smoking are low when compared to the rest of the world, smoking is still a significant factor in developing lung cancer.

One in six people who develop lung cancer, however, has never smoked in his or her life.

In these cases, it is caused by a number of other factors, including genetics (family history of lung disease), passive smoking, environmental factors (such as air pollution) or exposure to asbestos.

It can often be difficult for people to avoid the stigma that goes with having lung cancer, with others expressing their feeling that it is your “fault” for choosing to smoke.

Regional Support Services Manager Louise Good from the Cancer Council WA understands these additional challenges faced by lung cancer patients.

“The common assumption is that all lung cancer is linked to smoking – which we know is not the case,” Ms Good says.

If you find the stigma of lung cancer overwhelming, Cancer Council WA strongly encourages you to contact them on 13 11 20 and find out about the wide range of support services on offer.

Specific symptoms of lung cancer may include:

  • shortness of breath and wheezing
  • chest pain
  • cough which can produce blood stained sputum

General symptoms may include:

  • weight loss
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite

Importantly however, there are often no symptoms from an early stage lung cancer, and they are detected incidentally with CT imaging performed for other reasons.

¹ www.cancerwa.asn.au/resources/2016-05-18-Lung-cancer-2014-FINAL.pdf

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