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Reduce your risk of getting lung cancer with this advice

Aoife McNamara

Information Development Manager, Irish Cancer Society

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in Ireland, and sadly, more Irish people die from lung cancer than any other cancer. Here is what you need to know: to reduce your risk of getting cancer.

The statistics on lung cancer

  • Around 2,500 people in Ireland get lung cancer each year.
  • Lung cancer accounts for one in five cancer deaths here.
  • Often, lung cancer is only diagnosed at a late stage, meaning that it is more difficult to treat and there is less chance of cure.
  • Lung cancer usually affects people over 40, but the average age of diagnosis is about 70.  

But what causes lung cancer?

Here are a few factors that may increase your risk:

  • Smoking causes almost nine in ten lung cancers; the sooner you stop smoking, the more you reduce your risk of getting cancer
  • Breathing in other people’s smoke (second-hand smoke)
  • A family history – having a parent, brother or sister with the disease – indicates an increased risk
  • Being exposed to certain chemicals such as asbestos, metal dust, paints and diesel exhausts
  • Being exposed to radon gas in areas where levels are high also puts you in more danger

It’s important to note that having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely get lung cancer.

It’s never too late

Make some lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk of getting cancer:

  1. Don’t smoke – this is by far the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of getting cancer. Cigarettes, pipes, cigars, ‘roll-ups’ and low-tar cigarettes all increase the risk. It’s never too late to quit.
  2. Avoid second-hand smoke.
  3. Look out for any changes that are not normal for you.
    Talk to your doctor if you notice anything unusual, such as pain, unusual bleeding or new symptoms that don’t clear up after a few weeks.

If you do get lung cancer, you can beat it!

One of the most effective ways of surviving this disease is by early detection and diagnosis. If you spot any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor:

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • A cough that doesn’t go away, or a change in a long-term cough
  • Repeated chest infections that won’t go away
  • Feeling more tired than usual
  • A hoarse voice
  • Coughing up blood-stained phlegm
  • Pain in your chest, especially when you cough or breathe in
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Swelling around your face and neck
  • Difficulty swallowing  

Having any one symptom doesn’t automatically mean you have lung cancer. In fact, there’s a good chance it won’t be cancer. But getting your symptoms checked is not wasting anyone’s time. The sooner cancer is spotted, the more likely you are to recover from it.

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