Excluding non melanoma skin cancer, lung cancer is the second most common cancer among men in Northern Ireland and the third most common among women. Around 900 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in Northern Ireland each year.
What causes lung cancer?
Smoking cigarettes is the single biggest risk factor for lung cancer and is responsible for around 90 per cent of all cases. If you smoke just one cigarette a day, you are three times more likely to get lung cancer than a non-smoker. If you smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day, you are 20 times more likely to get lung cancer than a non-smoker.
Using other types of tobacco products such as cigars, pipe tobacco and chewing tobacco can also increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Even if you do not smoke, frequent exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke (passive smoking) can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Exposure to certain chemicals and substances that are used in a number of different occupations and industries has been linked to a slightly increased risk of developing lung cancer.
- Smoking (health and well-being section)
- What causes lung cancer - Northern Ireland Cancer Network Website
Not smoking is the most effective way to prevent getting lung cancer. If you are a smoker, the best way to prevent lung cancer, as well as other serious conditions, is to stop smoking as soon as possible.
However long you have been smoking, it is always worth quitting. Every year that you do not smoke, your risk of getting serious illnesses such as lung cancer will start to decrease. After 10 years of not smoking, your chances of developing lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker.
- Smoking and giving up (young people section)
- Reducing the risk of lung cancer - Northern Ireland Cancer Network website
- Giving up smoking - Space to Breathe website
Signs and symptoms of lung cancer
The most common initial symptoms of lung cancer include:
- a persistent cough
- a sudden change in a cough that you have had for a long time
- unexplained weight loss
- chest pain - this is usually intermittent (stop-start) and is often made worse when breathing or coughing
- coughing up blood-stained phlegm
Less common initial symptoms of lung cancer include:
- changes in the appearance of your fingers, such as them becoming more curved, or their ends becoming larger
- a high temperature (fever)
- difficulty swallowing and/ or pain when swallowing
- a hoarse voice
- swelling of your face
Lung cancer can cause additional symptoms if it spreads to other parts of your body like your brain, liver, bones or lymph nodes (glands).
Symptoms of advanced lung cancer can include:
- bone pain
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
- seizures (fits)
- feeling mentally confused
- swelling of the lymph nodes in your chest and neck
- a feeling of weakness in your arms and legs
When to seek medical advice
You should always visit your GP if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.
Your recommended treatment plan will depend on the type and stage of your lung cancer. Lung cancer can be treated using one or a combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. There are also a number of newer treatments that can be used in certain circumstances.