Lung Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

By Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit in Thoracic Oncology , Cancer Care / Oncology

Sep 15 , 2023 | 2 min read

Lung cancer remains one of the most prevalent and deadly forms of cancer worldwide, causing significant public health concerns. As we delve into the intricacies of this disease, understanding its causes, symptoms, and risk factors becomes paramount in the fight against lung cancer.

Causes of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer typically arises due to the uncontrolled growth of abnormal lung cells. Smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer and is responsible for about 85% of all cases. The carcinogens present in tobacco smoke can damage the lung cells' DNA, leading to mutations that initiate cancer development.

However, non-smokers can also develop lung cancer. Exposure to secondhand smoke, known as passive smoking, poses a significant risk. Additionally, environmental factors like air pollution, radon gas, asbestos, and specific workplace exposures (such as in mining or construction) can contribute to the development of lung cancer.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Symptoms of lung cancer usually depend on the stage of the disease. In its early stages, lung cancer often presents no noticeable symptoms, making it difficult to detect until it has advanced. However, as the cancer progresses, common symptoms may include:

  1. Persistent cough that worsens over time.
  2. Coughing up blood or rust-coloured phlegm.
  3. Shortness of breath or wheezing.
  4. Chest pain that worsens with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing.
  5. Hoarseness or a change in voice.
  6. Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite.
  7. Fatigue and weakness.

It is important to note that these symptoms may also be associated with other respiratory conditions, making early detection and diagnosis challenging.

Risk Factors of Lung Cancer

Several risk factors increase an individual's likelihood of developing lung cancer:

  1. Smoking: Cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking are the most significant risk factors.
  2. Secondhand smoke: Non-smokers exposed to tobacco smoke are at increased risk.
  3. Family history: A family history of lung cancer may elevate the risk.
  4. Radon exposure: Radon gas, a natural radioactive gas that can accumulate in homes, increases the risk of lung cancer.
  5. Occupational exposure: Working with asbestos, arsenic, chromium, nickel, or other carcinogens increases the risk.
  6. Air pollution: Exposure to high levels of air pollution, especially in urban areas, may contribute to lung cancer development.
  7. Previous cancer treatment: Individuals who have undergone radiation therapy to the chest may have an increased risk.

Prevention and Early Detection

Prevention is an effective way to reduce lung cancer risk, particularly by avoiding tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure. If you are a smoker, quitting is the most crucial step to lower your risk.

Regular lung cancer screenings are recommended for high-risk individuals such as current or former heavy smokers. Screening typically involves low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans to detect lung cancer at an early, more treatable stage.

In Conclusion

Understanding lung cancer, its causes, symptoms, and risk factors is crucial for raising awareness and promoting early detection. Smoking remains the most significant risk factor, but non-smokers should also be vigilant about potential exposures and symptoms. By adopting healthy lifestyle choices, avoiding tobacco, and undergoing regular screenings if deemed high-risk, we can make strides in the fight against lung cancer and improve overall lung health.